The State Worker

In annual pruning, state zaps dozens of unfilled jobs

In April, the State Personnel Board will consider consolidating a number of job titles for supervisors working at the Prison Industries Authority.
In April, the State Personnel Board will consider consolidating a number of job titles for supervisors working at the Prison Industries Authority. Sacramento Bee file, 2010

Cut faster.

That was the message Thursday when members of the state Personnel Board gathered to strike dozens of unused job titles from the rosters of different government departments.

In an annual culling of long-vacant jobs, the board eliminated about 60 titles.

It had been prepared to strike 125 job classifications that had been vacant for at least two years, but made some concessions when unions and state departments spoke up for certain positions.

But even the unions urged a faster pace of the government modernization that Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has advocated over the past three years.

“We don’t think it’s happening fast enough or comprehensively enough,” said Chris Voight, executive director for the California Association of Professional Scientists.

Since 2014, the state has pruned about 700 job classifications in a campaign to simplify government. The idea is to make state government a more attractive place to work for young job hunters.

The state is targeting unused titles as well as extremely specific positions that could be grouped into broader categories.

For instance, the state may not need an explicit job category for a psychologist at a specific department. The Personnel Board moved to cut some of those positions this week, including “Psychologist (Health Facility-Social).”

Some departments spoke up to retain long-vacant positions. Caltrans, for instance, lobbied to keep two job titles for positions that had not been filled since 2010.

Appeals like those did not fare well.

“It’s just not a good argument to say, ‘Let’s keep something that’s been open for seven years,’ ” board member Richard Costigan said to a Caltrans representative.

The Personnel Board in April plans to revisit some of the job titles it spared this week. They could be culled or consolidated. One, a prison industries superintendent for coffee roasting and grinding, could be grouped with other similar supervisory positions.

Brown since 2014 has touted a civil service improvement campaign to spruce up the state’s workforce policies. Lauri Shanahan, state Personnel Board vice president, said she’d request a formal update on the project soon.

“I tend to be impatient and I want to see a more holistic approach” to the consolidation of job titles, she said.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at sacbee.com/newsletters.

Gov. Jerry Brown said California was facing a budget deficit in the 2017-18 fiscal year, so the state must be careful about its fiscal condition. Video courtesy of California Channel.

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