By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Under a new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in late November thousands of provisional city employees will have the opportunity to become civil servants with layoff, seniority, and disciplinary job protections.
The law allows the city to extend a plan for reducing the ranks of the 22,000 provisional workers on its payroll.
By law, municipalities are only supposed to employ provisional workers for up to nine months. At that point, the workers must be hired into a permanent position or be let go.
“This is a tremendous achievement for the union,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said. “It will eliminate the specter of job loss that is always in the back of the mind of provisional workers.”
The city began trimming its provisional workforce after a 2007 court ruling, which upheld the civil service rule that restricts municipalities from employing provisional workers more than nine months. Today, the city employs some 23,000 provisional workers, down from 39,000 in 2008.
Over the years, DC 37 has worked with the Dept. of Citywide Administrative Services to carry out its plan, which required the State Commission of Civil Service’s approval. The union has pressed the city to identify titles and workers affected by the plan, schedule civil service exams and provide input on exam design. Because there are some titles with very few incumbents and others for which no exam had taken place for many years, a lot of workers have the opportunity to take a civil service exam for their title.
The new DCAS Provisional Reduction Plan calls for holding one-time exams for workers with more than two years of service in a position who meet the minimum qualifications for the job. This would only affect workers in positions where no exam list is in place or the process of administrating an exam is not year concluded.
The new law identifies 194 titles without an eligibility list or a scheduled competitive exam, which represents over 4,000 provisional workers s, 1,100 of whom are in titles represented by DC 37. A full list of the titles is available on the www.dc37.net website. Over the next several months, DCAS will develop a process for the administration of one-time “qualified incumbent exams” by title and establish eligible lists for the affected titles. Employees appointed from the list will serve a minimum three month probationary period.
DC 37 worked on this extension over the course of the year. The union encouraged elected officials in Albany to approve a bill for the extension. Members participated in the union’s campaign to encourage Cuomo to sign the bill into law.
In a letter to the Governor, Garrido said that allowing the old law to expire on Dec. 31 would “cause chaos” throughout city agencies. He pointed out that the dismissal of thousands of provisional workers would disrupt the workplace both through the loss of jobs and by triggering a reshuffling of permanent employees to cover positions and by employees reverting to a lower permanent line. DCAS will continue to administer exams for titles that have traditionally had exams.
“We are glad the new law was approved, and we will continue to work with the city on this,” said Local 371 President Anthony Wells, chair of the union’s civil service committee.