Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Democrats Say Details Needed on Civil Service Plan

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Democrats Say Details Needed on Civil Service Plan

Article excerpt

The Christie administration is not being open about "very, very dangerous" changes it has proposed for the civil service system, Democrats alleged at a state Senate committee hearing on Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers said they might issue subpoenas to force the administration to discuss the proposal, and that they will investigate what legislative powers they may have to block the changes.

The changes would create groups of jobs called "job bands." Government workers would be allowed to advance from one job within a band to another without taking a civil service test or competing with other prospective applicants.

"These proposals represent a fundamental change to our civil service system," said Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee. "Certainly, something that has such an impact should have been discussed more openly and more extensively."

Under the proposal, public employees would still have to take a civil service exam before they are initially hired. But after that first test, managers would have much more freedom to move workers to other jobs as long as they are not moving outside their band. The proposal does not specify how many jobs would be included in each band or which government jobs would be included in the banding system. All 170,000 employees in New Jersey's civil service system could potentially be affected.

Union leaders and Democrats say that giving managers so much flexibility will open the door to political patronage and cronyism, and that the plan will effectively eliminate veterans' benefits that are built into the system.

"This is a corrupt state, whether we like it or not," said Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey director of the Communications Workers of America, which has endorsed Christie's opponent for governor. State and local leaders want "to hire their friends and their allies to do public jobs, and these rule changes will make it easier for them to do so," she said. …

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