Assembly Approves Measure to Stop Proposed Changes to Civil Service Rules

By Desirée Taylor
Senior Correspondent

The resolution approved by the Assembly is designed to put the brakes on proposed changes to civil service rules, rules that determine how public employees are hired, fired and promoted.

“We wanted to make sure that we continued the tradition that according to the Constitution. Which requires that we promote people based on merit and fitness,” said Democratic Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula.

This system protects employees and democracy says Hetty Rosentein, state director of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). And she fears these safeguards would be eliminated if the Civil Service Commission moves forward with a plan to group jobs together — called banding.

“You could take two and put them together or you could take 200 jobs together here. You put them all together here and have a range of pay and management gets to decide who falls where within that job span. There’s no way of really even knowing who is doing the job and what job they are doing and why they should get paid that. There’s no actual ranking even though they talk about it. There’s no ranking, there’s no way of knowing who has the most merits,” said Rosenstein.

“I think that the Civil Services are protected by our constitution but it’s a very broad statement. We’re not changing anything that says you won’t be covered by civil service. We’re just changing the rules to provide a more efficient workplace,” said Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll.

And Carroll says changing the rules could give managers more flexibility to move employees to another position without taking an exam.

“We do need greater flexibility in civil service. The fact of the matter is, generally speaking, all jobs should be filled on the basis of merit and that’s great in respect to a test but not all things can be tested for. So I’m willing to trust the people who are at the high levels, the management to choose those employees who are best capable of doing the job,” Carroll said.

Rosenstein calls the proposed changes unconstitutional and claims they could open the door to cronyism and other abuses.

“It’s open season on public sector jobs in state government and you are talking about at that point tremendous amount of discrimination, cronyism — all things civil service system is designed to prevent,” said Rosenstein.

The governor has made it clear he wants changes to New Jersey’s civil service rules. The resolution has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, which seems uncertain.