At the conclusion of the legislative session in March 2021, Representative Christofferson (R-Lehi) formed a workgroup to discuss Governor Cox’s vision to modernize the state employee workforce. The workgroup included representatives from the Governor’s Office of Planning & Budget, the Department of Government Operations, the Department of Human Resource Management, the Utah State Auditor’s Office, Legislative Research & General Counsel, and UPEA.
The workgroup met in April to discuss career service, performance management, supervisor/manager training, compensation, and streamlining the current grievance process. The UPEA State Board gave input regarding the lack of funding, pay increases, training, high turnover, recruitment and retention of quality employees, and the difficulty of competing with other agencies and public employers.
COMMUNICATION WITH GOVERNOR COX
Based upon the recommendations from the UPEA task force, the UPEA State Board made a motion to formally support a performance-based compensation model, mandatory training for managers and supervisors, and streamlining the current grievance process. The State Board endorses these recommendations centered on the fact they will have an empowering and positive effect on state employees.
However, UPEA continues to express concern about eliminating career service protections for supervisors. On September 15, 2021, the State Board sent a letter to Governor Cox asking for his position regarding “at will” and career service employment. The letter stated, “These protections are in place to protect against political influence, safeguard fair hiring and termination practices, and preserve an employee’s ability to grieve an adverse job action.”
Jon Pierpont, Chief-of-Staff for Governor Cox, replied to the letter and stated that the Governor “understands that these discussions are central in the lives of many thousands of employees working on behalf of Team Utah and wants to communicate that our administration will continue to work alongside [UPEA] collaboratively and in good faith. We know that the work being done is helping to modernize our workforce and deliver a strong employee value proposition to our workforce. As this bill develops and the conversation continues, our senior representatives will carry forth the governor’s collaborative spirit, making sure to keep us apprised of developments continuously.”
Representative Christofferson made a presentation to the Government Operations Interim Committee on October 20, 2021, and outlined his draft legislation to give supervisors the option to move from Schedule B (career service) to Schedule A (at-will). The option will be a voluntary election for current supervisors – new supervisors will be hired solely as Schedule A employees.
UPEA Executive Director Todd Losser testified on behalf of the State Board and provided the following statement:
“On behalf of the UPEA State Board of Directors I would like to thank Rep. Christofferson, and the other participants in the workgroup, for their time and effort in discussing and recognizing the importance of public employees. UPEA has been involved with the workgroup for several months. UPEA also created an internal task force that conducted an in-depth overview of pay for performance, the grievance process, training, and career service. We look forward to providing additional input as we work through the final details of this bill.”
UPEA will continue to provide updates on the status of this bill including communication between the UPEA State Board and Representative Christofferson. It is important to remember that any potential legislation is considered a work in progress and UPEA will remain part of this process.