An ordinance that would reinstate “bumping” privileges for Crestwood’s civil service employees was up for final approval this week before the Board of Aldermen.
The board was scheduled to consider the second reading of an ordinance modifying three sections of the Civil Service Rules and Regulations when it met Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.
Besides replacing language in the civil service rules’ chapter on employee political activity and adding language to the alcohol and controlled substance policy, the ordinance would restore a “bumping” provision to the layoff policy.
“Bumping” occurs when employees whose jobs are eliminated move to another position for which they’re qualified. If that position is one which several people already hold, the employee scheduled to be laid off can “bump” out another employee — in Crestwood’s case, the one with the least seniority.
The city used to have such a provision in the civil service rules, but it was removed by the previous Civil Service Board during its extensive review of the document in 2006 and 2007.
That group believed the policy placed an extra burden on new hires, who could be “bumped” out of a job, and took away department heads’ authority to determine layoffs based on job performance, according to former Civil Service Board President Martha Duchild.
Further, the board felt the practice was not cost-effective to the city as retaining veteran employees, who have accrued more benefits, is more expensive than keeping a newer employee, Duchild has said.
However, seven maintenance workers and supervisors signed a petition late last year to have “bumping” privileges reinstated. They say they didn’t know the policy was removed.
“We would like to see this provision reinstated to protect the job of an employee who is a diligent, hard-working, well-trained asset to the city of Crestwood,” the employees stated in a memo submitted with the petition to City Administrator Jim Eckrich.
Under the pending policy, employees could move into another position only if they could perform the duties of their new job without retraining.
And Eckrich has said while the policy would allow “bumping” between departments, the two positions would have to be similar in nature, such as two secretarial jobs, or a maintenance supervisor and custodian.
Aldermen voted unanimously June 22 to direct the city attorney to draft legislation that would adopt a new memorandum of understanding with Crestwood firefighters, who are represented by Local 2665 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
Local 2665 and Crestwood officials negotiated the new, three-year MOU over the course of roughly one year, from the first presentation of the union’s proposal in May 2009 through its members’ adoption of the MOU June 8.
While the MOU and civil service rules are separate documents, the MOU at several points references sections in the civil service rules — including the three set to be modified.
Both City Attorney Rob Golterman and Kurt Becker, a vice president with Local 2665, have said the union agreed on the MOU with the understanding that aldermen would approve the modifications to the civil service rules and would ask to reopen negotiations if those modifications were changed or rejected by the board.
During a discussion at the June 22 board meeting about the civil service rules modifications, Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Schlink and Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild said Crest-wood would risk losing good employees if the “bumping” provision were reinstated.
“I don’t think that the bumping is a very good idea for the employees,” Duchild said. “I realize that it’s something that’s typically in union contracts, and that’s fine. I think that’s a whole different ball game. But the way I look at it is, in the unfortunate event of layoffs — which we hope would never happen obviously — there’s potential that you’d lose some of your best employees only for the fact that they’ve been there one day longer than another employee or 10 years longer …
“And I think it should be really up to the administration and the department heads to determine, in the event of a layoff, who they would like to keep — really based on performance is what I think it should be. I just can’t see that that helps the city in the event of a layoff, that potentially you’re not keeping your best performers.”
Schlink said, “You do run the risk of losing your better employees, and I would prefer those decisions of hiring and firing be based off of performance or, if necessary, be determined by department heads or the chiefs responsible for those areas, rather than just … terminating the employee just because they’ve been here either one day shorter or 15 years shorter than another person.
“It should be more (about) the performance, the contribution to the city, to the department, to the overall safety and really living up to the expectations of either the chiefs and department heads would be my opinion,” Schlink added.
But Becker told the board June 22 that “very few, if any” of the municipal fire departments and fire districts Local 2665 represents don’t extend “bumping” privileges to employees.
“The reality is that in this job market, outstanding employees are fairly well-coveted. While there may be challenges economically in some communities, other communities are thriving,” Becker said. “I have witnessed firsthand that outstanding employees don’t last long in the open market. So from my perspective, that’s not something that I’m particularly concerned about. Not nearly as concerned as I am about protecting the morale of the agency when you see people who put a significant amount of time into a department face the possibility of layoffs.
“The likelihood that a junior employee, one with less tenure, would be able to get rehired quickly is significantly greater than that of an employee with 15 to 20 years on them,” he added. “The reality is this is not an old man’s job. We don’t often find our employees seeking other opportunities after the age of 40 because there’s just not that many employers interested in looking for them …
“Candidly, it’s a heck of a lot easier for a 25-year-old kid to go out and find another job in the fire service than it is for a 45- or 50-year-old person,” Becker said.
Aldermen voted 5-2 July 27 on the first reading of the ordinance modifying the civil service rules.
Duchild and Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach were opposed, and Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel abstained.