Faced with a $24 million budget shortfall, Camden Chief Operating Officer (COO) Theodore Davis announced plans to cut 31 government jobs in October. Rather than rely on union agreements to decide where to cut, Davis used his own system, which he said was more equitable than established civil service procedures.
Unions representing municipal employees say that’s illegal. James Katz, legal counsel for Camden County Council 10, the union that represents more than 450 nonuniformed municipal workers, said, “He has to negotiate with the union. He can’t ignore civil service, ignore the union and take the law into his own hands.”
A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Personnel said Davis had the authority to work around the 100-year-old civil service system under a 2002 law that granted the COO broad authority over the city’s finances.
Davis said in September that he might need to cut as many as 60 jobs. In October, he reduced that number to 31 and said he would announce his final decision at the end of the month. When the time came, he postponed the announcement, saying he needed more time to analyze the budget.
Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison said the uncertainty has taken a toll on employees. Two employees passed out from anxiety on Oct. 30 and were hospitalized, she told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Katz promised to respond to whatever cuts Davis proposes with an injunction seeking layoffs determined by seniority.
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