Over the past several weeks, the Tennessee State Employees Association has participated in a series of meetings with high-ranking members of Governor Bill Haslam’s administration to discuss the Governor’s TEAM bill, which is aimed at dismantling the present civil service system. “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,” said TSEA Executive Director Robert O’Connell.
The TEAM bill’s features include the elimination of RIF (reduction-in-force) rules that allow bumping and retreating, effectively allowing the administration to get rid of employees they don’t like under the rules of eliminating a “position”. This removes seniority as a prime protection for state employees when layoffs are deemed necessary. The bill also does away with the right of a laid-off employee to be called back to work once improving economic conditions make that possible. Other aspects include the elimination of scoring job applicants on their experience, training, education, and test results and moving to a “pass-fail” system where administrators can hire any applicant who possesses the bare minimum qualifications for the job. Also removed would be an employee’s right to appeal most suspensions without pay.
Both sides in these discussions have agreed that the present system of annual evaluation of state employees’ performance is broken and ineffective and needs to be overhauled. Because so much of what the Governor is trying to accomplish depends upon the ability of administrators to compare one employee’s performance with another’s, TSEA believes a new evaluation system needs to be devised and installed, and ought to have produced a year’s worth of evaluations before the rest of the Governor’s proposed changes are considered.
“Although we appreciated very much the administration’s meeting with us and listening to our concerns, in the end they were not willing to bend in the areas of the bill that are most harmful to state employees and the citizens of Tennessee,” said TSEA President Phil Morson. “In scrapping seniority, the new bill would waste the considerable investment the citizens of this state have made in their most experienced employees. We hope their representatives in the General Assembly will not pass the bill in its present form.”
The first test of the bill will be on Wednesday afternoon before the House State and Local Government General Subcommittee.
TSEA is a nonprofit association existing to provide a strong unified voice with which it advocates the work-related interests of members. The attainment of association objectives will ensure a better life for our members and will attract and retain an effective, efficient state workforce to provide services for all Tennesseans. TSEA was established in 1974. For further information, visit the Web site at www.tseaonline.org.