NYC agency tasked with cutting temporary workforce delays hiring its own permanent employees

Ed Reed/Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio
Lisette Camilo, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

NYC agency tasked with cutting temporary workforce delays hiring its own permanent employees

NYC agency tasked with cutting temporary workforce delays hiring its own permanent employees
November 17, 2016

The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the agency charged with reducing the city’s temporary headcount to a level that meets state standards, is keeping temporary painters and electricians on its own payroll for longer than permitted, according to documents and one union leader.

State law requires the city to replace provisional – or temporary – employees within two months of establishing a list of qualified candidates for their positions, according to Nelson Flores, a Teamsters Local 237 shop steward representing maintenance staff at DCAS. A city progress report this summer shows that on July 6, DCAS established lists of 241 qualified electrician candidates, including those seeking promotions and those seeking to join the city’s workforce. Similarly, DCAS established a list of 152 eligible painter candidates on July 20. But more than three months later, two temporary painters and three electricians remain part of DCAS’ team.

When City & State asked about the matter earlier this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration said that the list of electricians was exhausted – meaning all candidates were hired by other agencies or turned down offers  before DCAS could use it. But since then, DCAS spokeswoman Cathy Hanson said some people who took the exam and turned down offers or didn’t respond to interview notices have requested to be added back to the list. There are now enough people on the list for DCAS to interview three electrician candidates, she said.

As for the temporary painters, the administration said DCAS had been waiting for approval from the Office of Management and Budget to hire permanent replacements, which it received Nov. 7. DCAS now plans to replace the two provisional painters with permanent ones by Dec. 7.

Nelson said nothing in the state law or a landmark court case prompting New York City’s reduction plan makes exceptions for delays due to budgetary approval. Above all, he said the city must do a better job of ensuring agencies are not favoring temporary workers on their team by avoiding replacing them through the civil service exam process.

“It’s like a mockery of the system .… There was supposed to be a reduction, and it went up in numbers,” Flores said of the increase in provisional employees, which went from 22,954 at the end of October 2014 to 23,949 at the end of July. “And they keep asking for an extension, and then due to their lackadaisical approach, the two months keeps going by …. How many extensions are they going to need?”

In an Aug. 4 letter, Flores reached out to Tom Falcon, a state Department of Civil Service official and a member of the state Civil Service Commission, which is charged with monitoring the city's compliance with a plan to reduce its provisional headcount. Flores said he never heard back.

A Department of Civil Service spokesman did not directly respond when asked how it handled Flores’ complaint, but noted that the commission had concerns about the city’s lack of progress. In response, the state commission summoned DCAS representatives to Albany during its June and September meetings. The commission plans to have city officials return in January 2017.

The city has administered more than 290 civil service exams since October 2014, replacing 1,442 provisional workers. The de Blasio administration aims to address another 5,233 by the end of the 2016.

“The city is currently in the middle of one of the largest replacements of provisional workers in recent history,” mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said in a statement. “We are working diligently to tackle the city’s longstanding provisional issues on multiple fronts.”

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect a change in the number of electrician candidates currently on a list that city agencies use for hiring. 

Sarina Trangle