Democrats Object To Civil Service Rule Changes

TRENTON – Senate Democrats Linda R. Greenstein, Bob Gordon and Raymond J. Lesniak introduced a resolution today that formally objects to the state Civil Service Commission’s proposed rule changes that would create jobs banding for state employees.

On March 18, the New Jersey Registrar published proposed rule changes by the Civil Service Commission that would make sweeping changes to the state’s civil service in the form of a “Job Banding Program.” Under the proposal, multiple job titles and title series would be grouped together under a band. Promotion within a band would no longer require a civil service examination, and instead be at the discretion of management.

“Civil service was created in New Jersey more than 100 years ago to ensure New Jersey’s working men and women’s job security is not at the whim of the spoils system, and that hiring, firing and promotion decisions are made based on merit and fitness of the employee,” said  Greenstein, D-Middlesex and Mercer. “Now in one fell swoop, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission is dismantling a system that protects our public employees from political patronage and favoritism. With this new job banding scheme, managers will no longer have an objective means to determine an employee’s qualifications or skills for a particular position – currently provided through the civil service examination – but instead will be able to arbitrarily determine promotions. This means that qualified and experienced public workers could be overlooked for promotions simply based on their relationship – or lack thereof – with office management.”

“I have no doubt that there are opportunities to improve the efficiency of the civil service system, but I have serious concerns about the impact of these wholesale changes to a system that has served us well since 1908,” said Gordon, D-Bergen and Passaic, Chairman of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee. “If we simply throw these out the window, there’s the potential to return to the spoils system of the 19th Century. We have to make sure employees are protected and that any process to change the system is done in a fair and transparent way. These proposals represent a fundamental change to our current civil service system, arguably the most drastic since its inception, and something that has such an impact should have been discussed more openly and more extensively. This process has been inadequate to say the least. The working men and women of this state deserve better than to have these changes forced upon them. They deserve a seat at the table and a more honest and deliberative process.”

The proposal would also severely roll back veterans’ preference procedures under Civil Service. Under the current system, eligible veterans who pass the civil service examination are ranked higher than nonveterans for hiring and promotion preference. With this rule change, a substantial number of personnel moves that are currently considered promotions would be redefined as advancements and veterans’ preference would no longer apply.

“As a proud veteran, I am offended by this plan to effectively strip away veterans’ preference from civil service. We have veterans’ preference because these men and women have sacrificed a lot to protect and defend our country. This proposal by the Civil Service Commission is no more than an end run around veterans’ preference,” said Lesniak, D-Union. “I have seen firsthand what cronyism and favoritism can do to a workplace. Employees need to know that their merits and expertise are what will help them advance rather than curried favors with those making the hiring decisions.”

The Senators also expressed an objection to the Commission’s attempt to circumvent the Legislative process through a rule change and without providing adequate public comment opportunities. The Commission held one public meeting at 3 p.m. on a workday, when many of those most affected would be unable to attend.

If approved by the full Senate, the resolution would be transmitted to the Chairman and members of the Civil Service Commission.

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