Debated ‘bumping’ SF labor practice may end

A controversial government labor practice that critics say results in workers taking jobs from more qualified employees could come to an end Monday.

The Civil Service Commission is scheduled to vote Monday on eliminating so-called “interdepartmental bumping.” Under current rules, laid off employees are entitled to displace, or “bump,” other city workers in similar job classes in any department if they have more seniority.

The longstanding practice has led to waste and service degradation, according to a report from the Department of Human Resources, which for years has recommended doing away with it.

“Citywide bumping can have significant impact not only [on] departmental operations but also employee morale,” says a Dec. 10 memo from Human Resources Director Micki Callahan. “The department loses a trained and experienced employee and receives an employee who may be unfamiliar with its services and responsibilities.”

Last year, the practice sparked controversy when laid-off Public Health workers took the jobs of secretaries at San Francisco Unified School District schools who had less seniority. The move angered parents, teachers and school administrators because many of the displaced secretaries had formed strong relationships with parents and knew the nuances of the school system.

At least one labor union, Local 21, which represents engineers, architects and IT employees, is strongly opposed to ending the bumping-rights system. A communication sent to city workers last week by Local 21 officials called the proposal a “sneaky move by The City … to end citywide bumping and weaken seniority just five days before Christmas.”

“An attack on job security through the elimination of departmental bumping is simply the last thing we need or deserve,” it said.

The debate over bumping comes as The City faces another year of having to close a budget deficit and possibly have to lay off additional workers. The City is in talks with labor representatives to agree to concessions to help close the projected $380 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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