Arizona law aims to end civil service rules
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation last week designed to eventually eliminate civil service protections for state employees. The measure ends “merit protections” for new state hires, according to the Verde Independent, and offers a carrot to current workers: give up the protections in return for a short-term pay raise.
The personnel reforms will make Arizona’s system more like those of private business, making most state workers at-will employees who can be disciplined or fired more easily. Currently, about three-quarters of the 36,000 state employees can claim protection under the state personnel system, including the right to appeal disciplinary actions and firings.
The new law mandates that state employees hired on or after Sept. 28 would be ineligible for merit protections. Current employees retain the protections. But they can voluntarily waive those personnel rights, in return for a one-time 5 percent pay bonus for nine months.
The offer could be attractive to some state workers. Most Arizona state employees have not had pay raises since 2008, state officials said.
Brewer said the civil service changes will make state government more productive. “The cumbersome rules of our existing personnel system only serve to discourage our best employees and protect the weakest performers,” she said.
State officials said the threat of being overturned on appeal discourages supervisors from disciplining subpar employees. And current rules, officials said, dictate that all employees with the same job description are paid within the same wage range, regardless of performance.
Critics said the new legislation isn’t necessary. Records show that most disciplinary actions under the current system are upheld on appeal.
Eliminating civil service protection makes state workers vulnerable to favoritism or political cronyism, said Sheri Van Horsen, a union local president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “Hard-working civil servants should never have to fear about losing their jobs because they refuse to put political bosses over serving Arizona families and communities,” Horsen told Bloomberg Businessweek.