WASHINGTON -- The National Treasury Employees Union is suing some federal agencies for their use of the Federal Career Intern Program that was initiated by an executive order under President Bill Clinton.
The lawsuit filed Jan. 24 charges that the intern program allows federal agencies "to circumvent and undermine competitive hiring procedures," according to a release by NTEU. The suit challenges Office of Personnel Management rules regarding the program as not restrictive enough and mentions the programs' use at the FDIC, IRS, and Bureau of Customs and Board Protection.
NCUA employs the internship program, but was not mentioned in the suit; NCUA employees voted to organize under NTEU nearly three years ago, but a bargaining has yet to be reached.
"Over the past several years," NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said, "the FCIP has become the hiring method of choice for many federal agencies, often at the expense of fair and open competition," including, in some instances, by reducing opportunities for promotion for current federal employees.
According to NTEU, agencies government-wide used FCIP authority to hire about 400 employees in fiscal year 2001, which grew to more than 11,000 in 2005. During the same period, the number of employees hired through competitive procedures declined by approximately the same number. The agencies are not required to post the entry-level jobs for internal or OPM's external job listings Web site. NTEU also objects to the two to three year internship period, doubling or tripling the typical one-year federal probationary period.
"Besides the longer probation, FCIP authority is attractive to management," Kelley said, "because it allows agencies broad discretion to target recruitment narrowly--for example, at college campuses--and then to choose among applicants without having to conform to established rating and ranking procedures." Civil service law allows for exceptions from competitive examination and selection rules, NTEU agrees, but only where "necessary" and "justified by conditions of good administration"--neither of which apply to FCIP as established by OPM.
At the time of the suit, OPM Director Linda M. Springer responded, "We believe the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) suit is unfortunate. In light of the pending departure of hundreds of thousands of employees to retirement, the Federal government needs every available tool to ensure we have an effective workforce, including the Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP) which brings in approximately 10,000 employees each year."
NCUA implemented the program Dec. 17, 2004 with its first hire effective May 1, 2005. Since the two-year period for the internship has not yet been reached, none of the interns have become permanent NCUA employees at this time. NCUA has hired 81 entry-level examiner positions via this method.
OPM's response to the suit was due April 2, but a spokesperson had not responded as of deadline as to whether an extension had been granted. --firstname.lastname@example.org