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Survey Shows Workers’ Qualms Crisis of Confidence At State Technology Office

A workforce survey in the state Office for Information Technology Services found that employees don’t trust their bosses or believe merit is a factor in promotions, and the Public Employees Federation says this is an outgrowth of management failures and outsourcing attempts.

The survey, conducted by the management-consulting firm McKinsey & Company, found that only 24 percent of workers believe the agency’s “leadership maintains high standards of honesty and integrity,” 22 percent say “promotions in my work unit are based on merit” and 21 percent feel “creativity and innovation are rewarded.” Only 21 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their opportunity for advancement.

Blames Cuomo, Miller

Wayne Spence, president of PEF, which represents 3,600 workers at OITS, blames the agency’s problems on Governor Cuomo and agency Director Maggie Miller. She was chief information officer for the Girl Scouts of America before taking over OITS in December 2014.

“Immediately my members told me she was hired to do one thing and one thing only: outsourcing,” Mr. Spence said in an interview last week. “That’s what she did at the Girl Scouts.”

He said current outsourcing plans call for removing 175 Level I and Level II help-desk jobs from state employees. “That’s not a true reflection,” he said, “because there’s a lot of additional workers who will be impacted, such as computer repair.” He believes that more than 500 workers are at risk.

“What is the state going to do with the workers whose jobs are outsourced?” Mr. Spence asked, adding that he expected another round of out­sourcing in 18 to 20 months. He said state employees could do the job better than private industry.

‘Need to Communicate’

OITS could not be reached for comment; its website has phone numbers and e-mail links only for people seeking computer support. Ms. Miller declined to comment to the Albany Times-Union about the workforce survey. She said in a preface to the report on the survey, “Some areas for improvement include need for better communication and enhanced recognition for employees…We have made a lot of great progress, but we still have much to do.”

The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

OITS was created in 2012 as part of the Cuomo administration’s desire to cut costs by centralizing back-office operations. Mr. Spence said, however, Mr. Cuomo has “created a monster.”

“No agency is happy,” he said. Two of them, the departments of Financial Services and Taxation and Finance, have returned to the old system, with their own IT personnel, because they could not work with the new system, he said.

Leave No Fingerprints

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision complains that OITS employees handling its rec­ords have not undergone fingerprint checks, Mr. Spence said. OITS workers are reluctant to be fingerprinted, fearing that a check could unearth, say, a 20-year-old juvenile conviction that could cost an employee his or her job.

IT employees are assigned to work at specific agencies but actually report to OITS managers in Albany, he said. That means OITS officials who don’t want to spend money on overtime can block action on things requested by the agencies, he said. Some agency managers don’t want to deal with OITS employees because they’re part of a different organization, he added.

“Workers feel that no real leadership or direction is being given to them,” he said.

As another example of mismanagement, he said, when the state began using Apple iPhones, OITS workers were not shown how they worked. “They didn’t even provide an Apple representative to provide training,” he said. OITS workers had to take the phones home so their kids could explain how to operate them, he said.

Not Clear State’s Saving

He said the outsourcing efforts benefit from New York State’s lack of a law requiring a cost-benefit analysis in advance of such actions to determine whether they will actually save money. State-employee unions have supported such a law, but one has not gained traction in the Legislature. He does not believe outsourcing OITS jobs will save money.

“Vendors who are contributors to the Governor’s coffers are the only winners here,” he said.

Story by By MARK TOOR, courtesy of The Chief Leader