Bill on seniority rights for state workers gains


State employees facing layoff from budget cuts would gain seniority rights under a bill passed by the Senate yesterday.

Sponsored by Sen. George W. Della Jr., D-Baltimore, the measure would allow classified employees losing their jobs to "bump" those in lower classifications with less seniority, a common provision in private-sector labor agreements.

Under budget cuts in the last several years, state employees whose positions were abolished were not considered victims of a layoff and thus had no such rights. Senate Bill 409 changes the definition of a laid-off employee to include such people.

In addition to bumping rights, this would mean that these employees would get a 30-day notice and be put on a re-hire list for future vacancies.

"It assures us a degree of fairness," said Sue Esty, lobbyist for Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "If there has to be budget cuts, it means we have our seniority rights, rather than them picking and choosing who gets laid off."

The bill passed 29-18 and now goes to the House where it is expected to face a tougher fight. Approval came after days of moves to delay the vote.

Sen. Laurence Levitan, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee that makes many of the personnel-reduction decisions, spoke against the bill, saying it would take away one of the legislature's favorite tactics -- going after specific employees by eliminating their positions.

Under this bill, the Montgomery County Democrat argued, if those employees had enough experience, they could avoid the Senate's scalpel by moving into a lower position.

But Mr. Della countered that almost all of the workers who are targeted in that fashion are not classified employees, but are in higher paid brackets and would still be vulnerable.

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