‘Bumping’ provision being considered by Crestwood Civil Service Board

Employee ‘bumping’ provision removed by city’s previous Civil Service Board

By EVAN YOUNG

A provision designed to help protect long-time employees from layoffs could make its way back into Crestwood’s Civil Service Rules and Regulations.

The Civil Service Board is considering putting a “bumping” provision back into the rules’ section on layoffs in response to a petition submitted recently by several public works employees.

“Bumping” occurs when employees who are laid off move to a lower position for which they’re qualified. If that position is one in which several people already work, the laid-off employees 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 during the previous Civil Service Board’s extensive review of the document in 2006 and 2007. However, seven maintenance workers and supervisors signed a petition last month to have civil service employee “bumping” privileges reinstated. They say they didn’t know the provision 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.

Eckrich told the Civil Service Board last week that employees might be reluctant to apply for higher positions within their department if they aren’t able to move back down in the event of layoffs.

“The concern is if, say, a supervisor position opened up, one of our maintenance workers would be hesitant to apply for it because right now they’re a maintenance worker who has seniority. So if three people were let go, they’d be OK, whereas if they moved into the supervisor position where there would be one of them, and the position were eliminated, they’d be the one,” Eckrich said. “I think they feel like by having this ‘bumping’ provision they’re better protected should they decide to better themselves and take a higher position with the city, where they may go from a position where there were eight people to a position where there’s one.”

He said the provision “has its benefits and drawbacks.”

“If I were one of these employees, and a supervisor position opened up and I wanted to apply for it, I would understand why,” Eckrich said. “I think while there are good and bad things with bumping, ultimately, I think the provision should probably be there just from the standpoint that it protects our longer-term employees trying to better themselves. But by the same token, if you have a good younger employee, why should they take the brunt of that?”

Civil Service Board Chair Carol Wagner shared Eckrich’s viewpoint.

“It’s possible to have the next guy in line not be as qualified as somebody that’s only been around a couple of years,” she said. “Kind of like the teachers — theoretically, it’s the same type of deal. They have to get rid of the newest one, the most enthusiastic and gung ho, for the guy that calls in sick every other week.”

Former Civil Service Board Chair Martha Duchild — who, along with Catherine Barnes and Gretchen Huston comprised the Civil Service Board that performed the 2006-2007 review of the rules — says she and her colleagues decided to remove employee “bumping” privileges because they agreed the practice was “counterproductive.”

Most layoffs are budget-driven, and retaining a more veteran employee — even in a lower position — wouldn’t be cost-effective to the city because a “senior” employee has earned more vacation and sick time and has been “vested in the pension plan longer than a ‘junior’ employee,” she wrote in a statement to the Call.

Duchild also noted the previous Civil Service Board believed “bumping” reduced department heads’ flexibility in managing their staff and “had a negative impact on the city’s competitive edge in attracting qualified new hires.”

“When an applicant accepts a job offer, he must also accept that the employer may eliminate his job for any reason, regardless of his length of service with the employer,” Duchild wrote. “Continuing the ‘bumping’ practice would place an undue burden of risk on the junior employee, since he would be at risk for losing his job not only if his position were eliminated, but also for any position above him that was eliminated.

“It was our goal to ensure that all civil service employees were treated fairly and equally.”

The current Civil Service Board last week directed Eckrich to review reinstating the “bumping” provision with department heads and City Attorney Robert Golterman, and to present their feedback to the board at its next meeting, which had not been scheduled at press time.