Albany passes legislation giving New York City until 2018 to comply with state law limiting temporary workforce

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DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido

Albany passes legislation giving New York City until 2018 to comply with state law limiting temporary workforce

Albany passes legislation giving New York City until 2018 to comply with state law limiting temporary workforce
June 17, 2016

During the final hours of the state Legislative session, both chambers passed a measure that would allow New York City to use a new hiring test to trim its temporary headcount with the hopes of bringing the city into compliance with a related state law by the end of 2018.

Ever since a landmark court ruling nine years ago, the city has successfully sought more time from the state to  reduce the ranks of its temporary headcount. Legally, the city’s temporary  or provisional workforce cannot represent more than 5 percent of all competitive positions in municipal government.

Despite the moving deadline, the city has struggled to sufficiently curb its temporary workforce. City officials previously said the number of provisional workers reached an all-time low of 21,416 by the end of 2014, but it ticked up to 23,052 again because of attrition and the need to hire for new citywide initiatives.

De Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said the administration hopes to address the situation by relying on new qualified incumbent exams authorized by the legislation. These exams would allow the city to exclusively give employment tests to staff who have worked for the city in a provisional role for at least two years. The government could then compile lists of candidates based on the exam results and be better prepared to make hires.  

This technique would essentially attempt to transition temporary workers into permanent positions before opening the tests and job openings up to the general public. In all, Goldstein said the de Blasio administration planned to offer these exams to about 4,700 provisional employees before the end of 2018.

“We are pleased with the passage of this legislation,” Goldstein said in a statement. “Working together with our labor partners we have created a viable strategy that will help us further reduce the city’s provisional workforce in a timely manner while also maintaining critical city operations.”

Even with these exams, the city may need another extension in 2018, according to state Sen. Martin Golden, who sponsored the measure. The senator said the city shared its goals of ensuring workers do not get stuck in less secure provisional roles for more than the nine months allowed under state law. Because this has proved complicated, Golden said the city needed the extension so it can come up with solutions for the provisional staffers.

“It’s important that we should move these provisionals into permanent civil service titles,” Golden said. “There’s no reason they should be working as provisionals for 15 to 20 years.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, however, did not respond to requests for comment about where he stood on the measure.

Without another extension, the city’s employment of more provisional workers than is legally allowed could make it legally vulnerable or lead to wrangling with unions. In 2007, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that provisional workers terminated in Long Beach, Nassau County, did not have arbitration rights their union claimed they did. The court also said the government misled these provisional workers into having an expectation of being employed beyond the nine months permitted under law. Because New York City had so many provisional employees the state began passing legislation allowing it a window to work its way into compliance.

Organized labor has long opposed relying on provisional employees, who have fewer due process rights and less job security. Back in April, Henry Garrido, executive director of the city’s largest municipal union District Council 37, said he was working with the de Blasio administration on a plan for reducing the ranks of provisional employees. Garrido said he represented the “lion’s share” of the city’s provisional staff and wanted to see them move into permanent roles, rather than being terminated en masse.

DC 37 did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

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Sarina Trangle
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