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CONDITIONS OF PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT
Provisions Governing Promotion in the Public Service
In forming a government which, it is hoped, will make for greater efficiency in the public service, the fundamental task of providing methods for maintaining an administrative personnel of high quality, requires a careful review of the question. of how to make it possible for able men and women to find careers in official life, through an orderly and equitable process of promotion. That the shifting of civil servants to private employment is responsible in a large measure for the constant derangement of public business has often been the subject of remark and requires no extended comment here. In searching for the cause of that evil, many discerning men have traced it to the lack of that opportunity to rise in the service of the state which is afforded in private life, in other words, to an absence of proper facilities for promotion to high positions in the government. This affects the entire service, for efficient work in the lower branches is not to be expected where no human rewards can accrue from it.
This continual transfer of able civil servants to private life weakens administration in a manner still more serious; it cripples the government in dealing with powerful private agencies, because the servants of the former are all too often rewarded by promotions to the service of the latter when they are sufficiently pliant. Where the state must, in the exercise of its police and other powers, constantly antagonize private interests, it can only hope to perform its tasks well by possessing a body of loyal officers and employees who look to the public service for their careers and not to private employments. The changed circumstances of modern economic life, therefore, require that the government shall have a body of trained servants whose first loyalty through a life career is to the state and not to private interests. In order to establish and maintain this body, provisions must be made for a system of promotions that will quickly reward loyal and efficient service to the state. In the face of such a problem, the mere provision that promotions, so far as practicable, shall be based on examinations is pitiably inadequate.
The civil service reform movement, when launched nearly half a century ago, was primarily negative in character. It was concerned with the "overthrow of the spoils system," to use the favorite slogan of the time. It has only been within the last few years that a constructive ideal has begun to appear in the study and formulation of a complete program for surrounding the official personnel of the government with those conditions which not merely prevent partisan evils, but are at the same time conducive to the highest standards of responsive and efficient government. This constructive program, although in the early stages. of its development, is now occupying the interest of all persons who seek
the establishment of responsive and efficient agencies of government. Clearly, therefore, the constitution should be tested by the standards of a constructive program rather than the expedients of party advantage combined within faith in negation.
Provisions Relating to Standards of Compensation
Justice demands that compensation, the payment for the service rendered, be computed on the same standard for judgment as the value of such service. But the state has done little to apply this underlying principle to the authorized employments of the competitive or exempt branches. Throughout the service the greatest disparity exists in the compensation paid for similar grades of work. Those employees receiving the relatively lower rates of compensation feel the inequalities as a matter of personal discrimination. Discontent has resulted and the morale of the service has been undermined.
Lack of Businesslike Basis for Fixing of Compensation and Work Requirements
In the history of the state government there has never been-and there is not at the present time—an exact logical basis for fixing salary rates or titles of positions. Standards of compensation for specified kinds of work as a basis for making salary appropriations are unknown. Furthermore, positions are created for the most part without any definition of the work requirements or any real understanding of the departmental needs to be met. Civil service employments are, from the viewpoint of salary standards, in a chaotic state. The titles of civil service positions are misleading. Similar titles are applied to positions entirely different in character; different titles are attached to similar positions. The greatest disparity in compensation exists with respect to work of the same character or grade. Efficient service of a high grade, in a very large number of instances, receives but a low (and inadequate) rate of compensation; service of a low grade in an equally large number of cases receives a large (and excessive) rate of compensation. In other words, compensation bears little reference to the service rendered.
This lack of uniformity with respect to compensation and lack of exact definition of duties have in themselves led to waste. Overlapping of the jurisdiction of employees within an office has resulted in wholly unnecessary duplication of work. Confusion in office and field practice, inconsistencies and lost motion are found in every division of the service. Furthermore, these wasteful conditions bear close relation to even more wasteful practices. For they indicate a general laxity of administration by the legislature which has multiplied employments without reference to the service needs.
Summary of Principal Defects in Employment Conditions
The principal defects which have resulted from this lack of a businesslike basis for fixing compensation and work requirements may be summarized as follows:
1. Lack of equitable or logical rates of compensation.
2. Prevalence of misleading titles with resultant confusion of work and wasted effort.
Prevalence of unnecessary positions and employments.
4. Want of due consideration of all the conditions relative to the welfare and comfort of employees for which scientific management calls.
Summary of Related Defects
The establishment of standards of compensation and proper specifications of duties for the public employments is fundamental to effective civil service control and regulation. In the absence of these standards the civil service commission is unable to formulate a program which will be of real value either to the management or the personnel. As long as the above conditions exist there will be no exact basis for the selection, promotion, treatment or dismissal of employees.
The defects in the present system of civil service control and regulation which have resulted directly from the lack of standards of compensation and specifications of duties may be summarized as follows:
1. Lack of proper basis for the selection of employees by the
civil service commission.
2. Lack of proper basis for the advancement or promotion of employees after selection; lines of promotion are not established; individual performance is not appraised and rated; no means are provided for the advancement of an employee while performing a certain kind of work on the basis of seniority and efficiency of service.
3. Lack of proper basis for dismissal or discipline of employees The uncertainty and injustice which result from such chaotic conditions narrow and limit the outlook of civil servants who feel that the civil service is not holding out proper rewards for meritorious service. As a result a condition of stagnation and indifference prevails.
Causes of Present Conditions
Civil service relationships and conditions of employments in the state of New York have been reached as a result of a development extending over the last century. This development has not been along the line of any defined plan or program. New employments have been authorized and existing employments modified as the functions of the
state have been expanded. This expansion represents a gradual evolution. or transition—a more or less uncontrolled and inconsistent growth which has had very little reference to the real needs of the service. At no time has there been a truly intensive study of the employment conditions with a view to the enactment of rules and the installation of procedures which would place the public service on an economical basis.
It is true that during the last forty years the state employment conditions of New York state have been subject to the regulation and control of civil service commissions to whom have been entrusted the application and enforcement of merit principles. Up to the present time, however, the primary object of such control has been to remove abuses which were common to the spoils system. In this respect progress has been made.. But the positive side of civil service control which contemplates the installation of standards of compensation, entrance and promotional examinations and a sound basis for discipline, removal and retirement has not been developed to the fullest limit, owing to the absence of proper constitutional and statutory provisions.
Steps Taken to Improve Present Conditions: the Senate Committee on Civil Service
The Senate Committee on Civil Service was created pursuant to resolution of the senate under date of February 15, 1915. This resolution provides that the Committee on Civil Service should have jurisdiction over all matters relating to civil service control and regulation. It may be said, however, that one of the principal objects and aims of the creation of this committee was to study employment conditions of the state civil service in order to formulate a basis for reclassifying civil service positions by standardizing salary grades and rates.
In accordance with the resolution establishing this committee, steps were taken to assemble data which could be used as a basis for the standardization of salaries and positions of employment in the state civil service. The information so collected was made the basis of a preliminary report characterizing present conditions and pointing to the need for further and more intensive investigation. An appropriation of $25,000, requested for this purpose, was made and the Senate Committee has organized an investigating staff for the prosecution of this work. This committee will report its findings and recommendations to the state legislature at the beginning of the year 1916.
THE STRUCTURE OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE POWERS, DUTIES AND LIMITATIONS OF OFFICERS
Need for Preconception of Structural Plan
In laying the foundation for a government, there must be some preconception of the kind of superstructure that is to be erected. In any plan for the management of representative government, as well as for the management of a private business, some definite notion must be entertained with respect to the organization or institutional methods for determining what is to be done and the organization or institutional methods for doing it. In fact, it may be said that this subdivision of duties and responsibilities is an essential to the successful operation of representative government. The prime reason for separation of the representative body from the executive is to provide a means whereby those who must settle questions of policy, shall have no direct responsibility for carrying them into execution, and may therefore act as independent critics of the administration. In other words, the underlying purpose of a representative system is not merely to reach decisions with regard to public policies, but also to provide the machinery for enforcing responsibility for acts. of "the administration," which means "executive responsibility."
Common Structural Essentials of a Representative System
The common essentials of representative government, as previously stated, are (1) a numerous non-official personnel to perform the functions of an "electorate," and (2) a "representative" body which meets at stated times to discuss questions of public policy and reach decisions. by vote as need for decisions may currently rise. The representative character, however, does not determine the organization or method for execution.
Types of Organization for Administration
Having provided for making the government representative, some means must be adopted for executing the policies and carrying on the business authorized. The expedients adopted in the organization of representative government for doing this work have been many. Broadly, organization for purposes of administration may be reduced to three general types, viz.:
1. Administration by legislative committee or commission-a type in which the elected body of representatives is made responsible for administering the business either directly