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State employees protest implementation of new IT agency

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Sep. 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm with No Comments »
September 21, 2011 12:02 pm

A state law passed this year creating a new IT agency, Consolidated Technology Services, also calls for moving some state employees out of the civil service and turning them into political appointees.

According to the law, those who might expect to be affected include anyone who is “a senior expert in enterprise information technology infrastructure, engineering, or systems,” or those who are

Officers and employees of the consolidated technology services agency created in section 801 of this act that perform the following functions or duties: Systems integration; data center engineering and management; network systems engineering and management; information technology contracting; information technology customer relations management; and network and systems security.

The idea is to allow market conditions to affect pay and allow IT employees to be shuffled around in ways that aren’t allowed for unionized workers.

But state employee unions objected to the law for taking away bargaining rights, and now are trying to put the brakes on its implementation.

The Washington Federation of State Employees says about 174 employees stand to become exempt, as proposed by the new agency.

About 50 Washington Federation of State Employees members crowded a meeting Tuesday asking Personnel Director Eva Santos to hold off on approving new pay classifications for the newly exempt workers. Santos has not yet made her decision, which is just one step in the process of exempting workers from collective bargaining.

Two state-employee advocates in the Legislature, Thurston County Reps. Sam Hunt and Chris Reykdal, testified Tuesday that the nearly 200 employees was much more than what the Legislature intended. The idea was to exempt about 30 high-level jobs, said Hunt, who said he was also speaking for Zack Hudgins, chair of a budget subcommittee that oversees the agencies.

The scope is broader than what lawmakers intended, Reykdal said. There are conflicting parts of the law that create a “mess” the Legislature should clean up next year, Hunt said.

“What we said may not be what we meant, or what we mean may not be what we say,” said Hunt.

Of course, Democrats Hunt and Reykdal both voted against the law (Hudgins voted for it). The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner, says he’s a better spokesman for its intent than its opponents and doesn’t have problems with how it’s being implemented.

Baumgartner said he talked with Santos today.

“It’s up to the managers of these departments to implement these things. They’re difficult for the legislative branch,” Baumgartner said.

And he added with a laugh: “The fact that my friend Sam Hunt is opposed to it in such a way probably means they’re doing it the right way.”

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