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Bill expands governor's ability to hire, fire state workers

Posted May 8, 2013

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— More state workers would serve at the pleasure of the governor under a bill that cleared the House State Personnel Committee Wednesday. 

The measure, which has drawn opposition from the State Employees Association of North Carolina, rewrites much of the State Personnel Act, a 60-year-old law that governs when and how most state employees are hired and fired. 

Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that he was seeking more flexibility in dealing with state workers. 

"Really, we're investing in employees and strengthening the employer-employee relationship so that everyone can be successful," State Personnel Director Neal Alexander told the committee via phone.

House Bill 834 had been filed as a measure dealing with the regulation of locksmiths, but that language was stripped out and replaced with the State Personnel Act language. 

It would raise from 1,000 to 1,500 the number of state workers a governor could hire or fire at will. These so-called "exempt" employees are generally political appointees who serve at top levels of the state's bureaucracy. 

Dana Cope, SEANC executive director, said his group didn't have an problem with that provision, calling it  "a red herring."

Other provisions of the bill, he said, made the remainder of the state's rank-and-file positions more vulnerable to political decision-making.

While provisions that prohibit political considerations in hiring for the approximately 135,000 positions subject to the State Personnel Act remain, the bill deletes many of the remedies a worker could pursue if they believed someone was promoted ahead of them for political reasons.

"Public employees deserve a system that rewards or punishes employees based on what they know, not who they know," Cope said.

Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, said he had worked with SEANC on the bill language and was surprised to hear Cope's objections.

"I've negotiated in good faith almost as long as I'm willing to negotiate," Collins told committee members. 

The bill had bipartisan support, with Rep. Winkie Wilkins, D-Person, backing the measure and promising to continue working on problems in the bill.

One section of the bill all sides agreed was a problem had to do with the rights workers have when a position that they're in is eliminated.

Current law requires they be offered a job with equivalent pay before being laid off. The bill seeks to allow workers to be offered jobs at a lower pay grade. However, Collins and SEANC said it would be unreasonable for a high-level executive or doctor to give up rights to certain severance benefits if offered a janitorial position. 

That provision is likely to be changed before the measure is heard by the House Appropriations Committee.

23 Comments

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  • goldenosprey May 9, 2013

    "They just want those huge paychecks for little work."

    Sounds like the investment class plutocrats whom the republicans worship.

  • Terkel May 9, 2013

    I've got news for you, stagemgr. The union bosses, much like the ones you're vilifying, and the "Rev" Barber, don't look out for the ones they claim to either. They just want those huge paychecks for little work.

    This isn't the 1950's that the libs hate so much, remember?

  • Wheelman May 9, 2013

    As much as I would love to see them get rid of those who aren't doing their job, I think it is about as likely as as it is in any really large corporate environment. Managers are either some of the ones who aren't really working or they are so busy going to mostly useless meetings that they don't know much of what goes on in the office. As a result the good employees pick up the slack for the lousy ones. Put 5 people together to accomplish anything and the odds are that at least one of them will not do their share of the work.

  • goldenosprey May 9, 2013

    Tiger and whatelse, if you say there should be no unions then there should be no AFP, or ALEC, Association of Retailers or any other organization that pours money into lobbying on behalf of private sector employers. Unions are there to simply get a semblance of balance. I know you don't think workers are people, deserving of a voice, but this is America.

    "State employees need union protection since the government is looking to strip all of our protections that a union would give us. Unions help employees, and it sure looks like the governor isn't looking to help his employees, just his pals."

    And this is why union representation should expand to public employees. When you have government leadership that is as adversarial to the interests of state workers as we have now.

  • SMAPAEA May 9, 2013

    State employees need union protection since the government is looking to strip all of our protections that a union would give us. Unions help employees, and it sure looks like the governor isn't looking to help his employees, just his pals.

  • Rebelyell55 May 9, 2013

    I would agree they need a better methods to get rid of those who just can't do the job they're in. But, to remove them and put them in a job they still can't do is just so wrong. It's been long known that they don't hire the best or most qualified. Remember the story last year where they were hiring family members for position for storm clean up?

  • Kaitlyn May 9, 2013

    It sounds to me like all the people who helped get McCrory elected and were expecting to be handed a nice high level state job in return are now calling in those promises form Pat.

    The problem is that he only has 1,000 positions he can fill at will and that's not enough for all the people and their friends he now owes favors to. That's why he want to up it to 1,500 positions. There's just too many pigs for the teats.

  • anametoknow May 8, 2013

    They need to proposed a bill to stop agencies from giving raises to their favorite employees who have only completed worked outlined in their work plan. In Agent Services Division within the Department of Insurance, there has been one particular employees who has received a 10% raised each year since 2010 just because the employee asked for it. This occurred even when everyone else was told their there was no money for raises. In 2012, this same employee received at least a 30% jump in pay and a promotion while everyone else got extra work and no raise. The whole idea behind EPA position that management has the flexibility to pay market rates to find the best qualified people. I don't believe this will happen because the entire state employee practice is a bunch of politics that thrives on who know who, who likes who, who kisses the most behinds and who snitches the most.

  • caryzoo May 8, 2013

    You all may think a union is the wrong way to go. It is not, I have worked for a union, and NOT worked for one, unions protect people, the state of North Carolina DOES not.I personally think if the Gov wants these powers, then he has to replace that worker with a member that is OPENLY of the opposing party. That way we know, whoever was there must be truly bad. If this gov is only for his own, which so far is just the way he is, sadly, then he does not deserve these powers. The President doesn't have them, for a good reason, nepotism, which an ugly word and an even uglier reality. NO state should have this power, if the Federal Government doesn't allow it, neither should any intelligent and fair minded state. HOWEVER..being NORTH CAROLINA, well, I personally feel "intelligent" and "fair minded" are not attributes of THIS group of people. Again, very sadly admitted.

  • Tiger May 8, 2013

    The last thing we need is a union in the public sector here in NC

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