A controversial overhaul of procedures used to hire and fire state employees in Wisconsin is set to take place this July.
The changes will go into effect under Wisconsin’s Act 150, which Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed in February. Among other policy modifications, the law will shift hiring away from civil service exams, toward a system based on applicants’ resumes, and will base layoffs primarily on performance, lessening the influence of seniority over whether a person keeps their job.
Proponents say the changes will speed up hiring and make it easier for agencies to cull poor performers and bad apples from their ranks. Critics argue the new law opens the door for political patronage and other forms of favoritism to sway who gets state jobs. And some say it makes it easier for supervisors in Wisconsin agencies to arbitrarily punish employees.
“What we’ve actually seen is that departments are going through reorganizations and using those reorganizations to terminate people,” said Timothy Markham, the executive director for Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions, a union that represents over 31,000 state employees. Markham said the union was initially worried about how the policy changes in Colorado would factor into instances when there were large-scale layoffs. But what they’ve seen in practice are situations where there are “reorganizations of just one position.”
“That is troubling,” he said. “I don’t think it was something we totally foresaw, that they would use reorgs at such a micro level to just start knocking out individual workers.”
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