Editorial: Beware of union influence in management restructuring

Published Jan 7, 2014 at 12:01AM

If legislators agree, managers in Oregon state government will soon lose some existing protection against layoffs.

A bill being drafted for the February legislative session would curtail so-called bumping rights for managers. Currently, those promoted into management can reclaim their earlier nonmanagement jobs if their new positions are eliminated. That bumping privilege goes on indefinitely, according to a report in the Statesman Journal newspaper, and allows them to oust people hired to replace them.

The proposed change would limit those bumping rights to three years for those promoted by the end of this year, and eliminate them altogether for anyone hired later.

While it seems reasonable to curtail such an excessive benefit, we’re troubled by the way it came about. The Statesman Journal reports the change is part of the state’s 2013-15 contract with the Service Employees International Union Local 503, although it would apply to all managers, including those affiliated with other unions. It is being drafted by the Department of Administrative Services.

The proposal is only one of the changes under consideration for the state’s mangers this year and next, as the DAS proceeds with its Enterprise Management Solutions Project. A survey of about 3,400 managers was completed in December as the state tries to gain an understanding of its management structure. The survey collected information including what managers do, how many employees and dollars they supervise, how they are evaluated and how much they are paid.

Analysis of the results could lead to changes, including pay adjustments, with some managers’ salaries frozen and others getting raises as the state seeks to match pay to levels of responsibility.

The SEIU has been vocal on this subject as well, the Statesman Journal reports, arguing in 2012 that 544 manager positions could be eliminated, saving $21.8 million for the state’s general fund.

The union’s concerns deserve a thorough hearing and study, but changes in the state’s management structure should be driven by the information gathered in the DAS study, not by pressures from union contract negotiations.