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State Capitol News

State Workers Lose Employment Protections

Gage Skidmore
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation this afternoon designed to eventually make virtually every worker in Arizona state government an at-will employee who can be disciplined or fired at will. 

About three-fourths of the 36,000 state employees are "covered,'' meaning they are entitled to protections of the state personnel system and have certain appeal rights if disciplined or fired. The new law says anyone hired on or after Sept. 28 is ineligible for merit protections. Existing covered workers can keep that status. But gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson noted the plan offers a carrot: a one-time 5 percent pay bonus for nine months -- but only for "uncovered'' workers.

"What the governor would like to see is, over time, the state transition to a more at-will workforce, similar to what you have in the private sector, where employees are actually rewarded for their performance and not merely their seniority," Benson said.

Benson conceded it remains to be seen whether that one-time incentive is enough to convince employees to give up their personnel rights.

"Most state employees haven't had a pay raise since 2008," the Governors spokesman said. "So we think over time -- maybe slower than we'd like -- but over time this is going to transition to an at-will workforce, or a majority at-will workforce."

Benson also disputed contentions that the change will lead to cronyism, with the jobs and pay hikes going to those who are liked by their supervisors.