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Archive for Thursday, September 23, 2004

Shuffling at SRS causes uproar

Some workers forced to reapply for jobs in reorganization

September 23, 2004

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— One of the largest state agencies in Kansas is in the midst of a reorganization that is likely to result in job losses and redefined positions statewide, officials say.

Candy Shively, deputy secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, said the result would be an agency that could better provide services to poor and elderly Kansans and oversee adoption and foster-care systems.

But privately, some SRS employees are voicing concerns they may lose their jobs. Some are being forced to reapply and interview for positions, while others will be required to relocate to keep their jobs.

In addition, while the overhaul will result in some employees getting pay raises, others will see cuts in pay, officials said.

"It is creating a lot of morale problems," said Andy Sanchez, executive director of the Kansas Association of Public Employees.

SRS couldn't provide a number of how many positions would be cut nor how many positions would be changed.

"It's very fluid," said Mike Deines, SRS public information officer.

The reorganization effort is going on statewide in the agency's six regions, which include about 3,000 employees. The agency has a total of 4,048 positions, but several hundred currently are vacant.

The personnel changes are the next step in a process that has been occurring over the past year or so, officials said.

SRS used to have 11 regional offices, but that number was reduced to six July 1, a change that included moving administrators from the former Lawrence-area office to the Kansas City metro office.

SRS also formerly had an office in each of the state's 105 counties where agency officials and social workers met with clients and applicants for services. But in the past year, the agency has shut down nearly half of those offices.

In the new Kansas City metro region, SRS director Greg Valentine said he had identified 18 positions of 650 that were going to be eliminated.

He said employees in the positions to be cut would be offered other positions currently vacant.

That apparently is the procedure being used statewide, Shively said.

She said there were about 350 open positions in SRS.

"We are trying to manage through the vacancies that we have. That gives us a bit of flexibility to find a place for everybody," Shively said.

Employees who seek promotions through the reorganization will have to compete with others for the job, she said. More lateral moves may involve a transfer, while if there are too many people in a certain position, a priority scoring system will be used to determine who keeps the job.

Sanchez, the public employees association official, said some might decide to quit or retire rather than uproot their families if their positions are moved to other locations.

Shively said the agency was trying to make the reorganization as painless as possible, but she conceded there were many concerns among employees and that the reorganization represented a structural change for the agency.

"Change is difficult for anyone," she said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' office said SRS proposed the changes, but the governor had encouraged all state agencies to find better ways of delivering services. Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Sebelius, however, said she did not know of another state agency reorganizing itself to the extent SRS was.

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