Tennessee state workers oppose Haslam's civil service changes

Tennessee state workers oppose Haslam's civil service changes

February 15th, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at the Tennessee Press Association winter convention on Thursday in Nashville.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - The Tennessee State Employees Association said Gov. Bill Haslam's administration refuses to compromise on the "most harmful provisions" of a Haslam bill the group says damages workers' civil service protections.

"Unfortunately, the governor's people were unwilling to remove or compromise on the provisions most harmful to state employees and to the people of Tennessee, leaving TSEA no choice but to announce our strongest opposition to the bill," TSEA Executive Director Robert O'Connell said Tuesday.

The Republican governor's bill eliminates rules that give priority to senior employees during layoffs, allowing them to move into positions occupied by less-senior employees. Haslam has denounced the "bump and retreat" rules as absurd.

O'Connell said it would effectively let the administration "get rid of employees they don't like under the rules of eliminating a 'position.'"

The bill faces its first test today when it is scheduled to come before the GOP-controlled House State and Local Government General Subcommittee.

Other provisions would eliminate scoring job applicants on their experience, training, education and test results. The TSEA said it also moves to a "pass-fail" system where administrators can hire any applicant who only possesses what the employees' group said is "the bare minimum qualifications for the job."

Haslam has argued the current civil service system is inefficient in comparison to the private sector.

State employees counter that the new rules threaten to bring back the days of "patronage" when officials hired supporters and whomever else they pleased with taxpayer dollars.

Haslam said he can be trusted not to do that.