Reductions in Force (Layoffs) and Related Issues

Layoffs may, by law, occur when there is: a) not enough work, or, b) not enough money. Our contract, under Article 18, sets forth a model for fairness when layoffs are made by the State. The Commonwealth requires the agency to develop a Reduction in Force Plan which must comply with Federal & State Labor Laws, as well as Affirmative Action Laws. The Human Resource Division’s Office of Employee Relations reviews all plans concurrently with the State Office of Affirmative Action to ensure compliance and legality. NAGE Bargaining Unit Presidents are contacted immediately upon approval of any plans. An impact bargaining session is held with the Commonwealth’s Office of Employee Relations, the Agency, and NAGE. At that session, seniority lists are produced, rationales for the layoffs are presented, and alternatives are discussed. The Commonwealth has consistently held that Contracts, Contractors, Managers and other operating costs, would be reduced before bargaining unit employees were affected. This has not always been my experience, to date.

Layoffs are supposed to be the result of a plan, by the Agency, to reduce or eliminate functions within the agency. This translates to people who are doing those specified functions. The individuals, whose functions are targeted, have various rights by our contract agreement or by Civil Service Law. Seniority is a right under our Bargaining Unit’s Contract Bargaining Agreement with the Commonwealth. Without a Union, there would only be Civil Service Status, and little else. Try speaking with your non-unionized private sector friends about “corrections in the market” and how people are terminated!

Article 18 sets forth the framework for bumping, displacement and recall rights. Please give that Article a good read. When a person’s function is eliminated (through the RIF Process) the individual may exercise their rights to displace an individual of equal grade and title, and who is least senior in that same grade and title in their region. If there is no such person least senior in region, they may displace the least senior person in the same grade and title across any region. Options for displacement (bumping) are often given in the layoff notice from the agency.

If the individual has no one to displace at the same title and grade, they may bump downward within their region. Again, the least senior person in the titles and grades, below the laid off individual, are options available to the person more senior and laid off. This can, conceptually, create a cascade effect downward, within the agency, where least senior people are ultimately laid off.

There is another by-product of lay offs. How shall I phrase this? Let us just say that some individuals attempt to be treated more preferentially by having their position, somehow, miraculously, reclassified or promoted into a position that protects them, temporarily, from being bumped. I hope this is tactful enough. Should your agency, in the coming months, develop a RIF Plan, and should you notice a colleague who suddenly gets a different position, contact your nearest steward, executive board member, or me as soon as possible. Fair is fair!

Another result of lay offs and early retirement is the restructuring of agencies for utilizing the remaining staff to do the work of the agency. Reassignment of tasks and duties are to be expected. If you find yourself reassigned to new tasks please read the Article 20, Reassignments. Speak with your steward, call your Executive Board Member, or me if your work is predominately that of a job classification higher than yours. In particular, you should ask for your job duties to be added to your Form 30, by your supervisor. If your request falls on deaf ears, fire off a memo requesting that the specific duties be added to your Form 30. This begins a paper trail for a Classification Appeal, later on down the road. Another suggestion for those individuals who are of the persuasion that they should not have to adjust, the rest of the world should. Do not place yourself in the position of refusing to accept the newly assigned duties. This is insubordination; not a good thing to do. Better to follow orders, first, and grieve afterwards. Still better is to consult your nearest NAGE Steward.