- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

The District of Columbia government is taking another step to ensure more accountability from its managers by offering them higher pay, but some union representatives and supervisors fear they are giving up workers' rights.

As of Wednesday, more than 1,000 of the 1,139 eligible managers signed on to the Management Supervisory Service, which was established through 1998 legislation. Only five employees have refused to sign on to MSS.

By moving to MSS, city supervisors are given higher pay and incentives in exchange for producing better results from their staffs. But managers who fail to provide tangible improvements in service can be fired without cause.

"People are now operating in a real atmosphere of fear," said one Department of Health manager, who asked not to be identified.

The 25-year employee said some supervisors who moved to MSS have mortgage and college-tuition payments and are concerned because personality conflicts or other trivial matters could lead to dismissals.

"People don't feel that anything will happen other than [termination]," the manager said.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams' administration counters that the notion is not only to make supervisors more accountable, but to help the city attract and retain talented managers.

"For most managers, the move to MSS will mean a significant increase in pay," said Milou Carolan, director of personnel. "It's also about training and development."

Managers are expected to establish clear goals to be implemented during a 12-month evaluation period.

"They will be evaluated based on the achievement of those goals," Miss Carolan said.

"We're going to focus on some of the nuts and bolts of supervision," she added. "We're putting together an extensive register of courses for our managers and supervisors."

But union officials are concerned about the future of the program and how evenhanded MSS will be without civil-service protection.

"We believe in accountability. We don't believe workers should be at the mercy of employers," said Joslyn N. Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO.

His organization does not negotiate contracts with the city, but acts as an umbrella for all the public-employee unions. Twenty union contracts are open for negotiation this year, administration officials said.

"The biggest shortfall [in MSS] is that there isn't due process … and there can be favoritism," the union president said.

In early August, letters were sent to more than 1,100 employees in positions that were converted from civil service to MSS. Employees had the choice of following their positions into MSS, being transferred to other jobs, being terminated, or retiring, if eligible.

"It doesn't look like people have much of a choice," Joslyn Williams said. "The only thing we can do is express our concern. The union can only speak to the issue of fairness."

But Miss Carolan said that although managers in MSS will be under fire once the legislation officially goes into effect Sept. 11, ultimately termination decisions will lie with agency directors.

"The best protection is to do the best job they can," Miss Carolan said. "Our expectation was to make sure people were responsible."

Employees working for the Board of Education, University of the District of Columbia, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, D.C. Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service are exempt from the program.

Next year's budget includes $13 million to fully fund the pay increases.

"The budget assumes that these positions will exist in the next fiscal year," Miss Carolan said.

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