Arizona State Workers Can Get A Pay Hike, If They Give Up Protections

Arizona civil service workers unionsSome say it's a devil's bargain. Arizona government employees, who have suffered recent pay cuts, could get a 5 percent raise. All they have to do is give up many of their civil service protections, reports Stateline. Gov. Jan Brewer's "personnel reform" proposal, if it becomes law, would strip away much of the job security of all new hires, the newly promoted, attorneys, IT workers, and anyone who wants a 5 percent pay hike.

Arizona is one of many states trying to peel back these protections in order to create greater flexibility when it comes to hiring, promoting and firing. State workers in Arizona, as in most of the country, have greater job security than their private sector peers. The vast majority of American private sector workers are "at-will," which means their supervisors can fire them whenever and for whatever reason they want.

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But since the early 20th century, this hasn't been true for most state government workers. With each new administration, civil servants were subjected to a "spoils system," in which they were frequently hired and fired for their politics. To end the cronyism, states introduced merit systems, in which employees could only be hired and promoted on the basis of their qualifications for the job, and could also appeal dismissals and disciplinary action.

But many state officials claim that these merit systems are now antiquated; the regulations offer no incentive for hard work, they say, and make it difficult to fire poor performing employees. Georgia eliminated the merit status of its state workers in 1996 for one modeled on the private-sector -- rewarding excellence. Indiana did the same last year. Utah has been considering similar reforms for a while, and the governors of Colorado and Tennessee are pushing for change.

Under Brewer's proposal in Arizona (see a two page summary here), agencies would have to base promotion decisions exclusively on performance, and not seniority. The state personnel board, where employees go to appeal their dismissals or penalties, would no longer be able to do anything other than accept the decision, or reject it if there's no cause. Employees would no longer be able to appeal a decision to a superior court on the grounds that it was arbitrary or capricious.

Law enforcement or probation personnel would not receive overtime, unless federally mandated, and agency directors would have no term limits. Those agency directors would "serve at the pleasure of the governor."

"Either we provide state supervisors the flexibility they need to manage their workforce, or we accept a personnel system bound up with bureaucratic red tape," Brewer said in a statement Tuesday. "Either we institute these reforms, or we continue outdated policies that provide most state workers with protections enjoyed by virtually no one in the private sector."

The reforms are all the more urgent, she argued, because one third of state employees are eligible for retirement in the next five years. Government therefore needs to dismantle some of its bureaucracy, and defer less to seniority, in order to attract and retain young talent.

Critics of the reforms argue that job security is one of the public sector's greatest draws. Others worry that the changes would allow partisanship to sneak back into the hiring, firing and promotion decisions of the state government, and that the 5 percent wage hike incentive is essentially a bribe. There was a House of Representatives special committee meeting on Thursday to discuss Brewer's proposal.

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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

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Yo Antique Girl

So to get a raise you have to sign away your rights...Wow! So let me get this right: If you do your job, sign the waiver, and then your boss (who could be an AH) can fire you for no reason other than that he/she doesn't like you and you have no recourse. Glad I'm a "retired" Human Resource Executive. Guess you State of AZ employees need to do next time you elect a Governor!!!!!

October 01 2012 at 7:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We need to be able to easily fire state employees so there is more tax money left over to send to GoldInSachs...

February 28 2012 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Blackmailing their employees and trying to subvert the union.

What they are doing is illegal, it violates the national labor relations act. The attorney general should file suit against them, fine them, and extend the higher wage to all of the employees.

Evil sneaky b*stards.

February 20 2012 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why do government workers have protections and private sector employees not? I'm paying for the government emplyees' protection and not getting it myself

February 20 2012 at 2:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jacqueline's comment

In years past the job security was to make up for lack of salary. Nowadays most government employees earn more than comparable private sector jobs yet have protections that shelter them from the processes that exist in the private sector to weed out ineffective workers.

February 20 2012 at 2:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

In years past the job security was to make up for lack of salary. Nowadays most government employees earn more than comparable private sector jobs yet have protections that shelter them from the processes that exist in the private sector to weed out ineffective workers.

February 20 2012 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to flymach83's comment

well, thats what happens when you click the mouse too many times while doing something else at the same time. Sorry folks...

February 20 2012 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

My spouse works for a local county. That county has about 1,500 employees and I can recall about 10-12 county workers who have lost their jobs due to disciplinary reasons. Bad employees in the end don't survive the cut. A less than 1% disciplinary rate is damn good but for some reason taxpayers think they don't get enough for their money (and they never will in their view).

February 20 2012 at 1:59 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

They would be fools to do that! When the GOP can fire you without cause they will use it to make everyone their mindless drones. It happened in Florida when Jeb "You work at my pleasure" Bush did away with all civil service protections! After that it was a bloodbath of fired people who were close to retirement and those who would not submit to political pressures.


February 20 2012 at 1:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I use to work for the state of Louisiana at one of the university. I was in management. In beleive the civil service protection for employees should be over haul because it being abuse by civil services employees. I have witness abuse first hand, most of them feel like they cannot be touch even though your documentation do give you the right to displence,but if they continue do the same thing it takes monthes to get them out of the system, i just think that is a bad example being set for the rest of the employees, they really should look hard and long an cosider some kind of transform like Texas and some of these other states.

February 20 2012 at 12:46 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gloria's comment

Out of curiosity, what was your job at the University?

February 20 2012 at 3:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

We all know that usually where there is smoke there is fire and we investigate. In this case where the take over of a Nation is involved there definitely should be to set an example to those who may try it again!

February 20 2012 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Supreme Court should have some explaining to do. I know it was not all of their members who SHOULD BE SUSPECTED but their are a few who displayed behavior that they OWE the AMERICAN PUBLIC AN EXPLINATION FOR!

February 20 2012 at 12:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If we learn anything from this it should be that no INDIVIDUAL or GROUP ( CORPORATIONs or UNIONS ) of people should have the power to enslave others of FORCE their agenda on others. Whenever you have more than one person involved in a relationship there are going to be differences. Ask anyone who is married how long that relationship would last without willingness to compromise from both parties. The Teapubs were allowing their one, unelected Corporate Master Grover Norquist to call the shots which should have immideately got them Jailed for Treason against the American Government and it's People. This man was representing a group ( some Corporations ) that were attempting to take control of our Government without the consent of the AMERICAN PEOPLE!

February 20 2012 at 12:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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