Civil Service Reform & Manure

One of the key components essential to the production of large, sweet, succulent strawberries is manure. Cow preferred, but sheep will do nicely in a pinch.

There is nothing better, I am told by rustic and organic friends, than natural fertilizer. That said…

When handed a bowl of strawberries you don’t want the manure with them. Sugar maybe. And milk. But hold the manure.

Which is, I suspect, how federal unions are feeling about the what they hoped would be the salad (strawberry?) days with the Obama administration. Specifically they are nervous about an upcoming plan to overhaul the federal civil service system. Starting with a streamlined hiring system which was announced earlier this week.

An improved hiring system will be popular with the media and the public. Both naturally assume that Uncle Sam does it even worse than the private sector. But hiring reforms are not a big ticket item, outside of the HR community, ,for most feds who, after all, already have jobs. After all, they made it into government despite the system’s real and perceived flaws.

Federal unions applaud the new streamlined hiring proposal. But they are not 100 percent happy.


No mention was made of reforming (as in “killing dead”) federal agency intern and fast-track hiring programs, FCIP, which, unions believe, are killing the merit system. Unions claim that in some agencies as many as half of the new hires (for the best fast-tracked jobs) come in as interns, skip the process most regular hires must undergo/endure and wind up moving up faster and earning more money than long-suffering civil servants in the same office and agency.

Earlier we tipped you that unions were expecting some major paybacks in return for their endorsements and support of candidate Obama in the last election. The column was headlined “Next Target: Fast-Track Hiring Programs

Unions got a big payback when a Democratic Congress and the White House pulled the plug on the Bush administration’s Defense’s controversial National Security Personnel System. Defense now must return 220,000 civilians (some who really don’t want to go back) to the old GS system. But the main beneficiary of that is the American Federation of Government Employees which represents many Defense workers. John Gage is president of the union and led the successful assault on NSPS.

But AFGE, and the National Treasury Employees Union, want and feel they deserve more from the White House. Both have made it clear, in very diplomatic language unheard during the Bush years, that they don’t want upcoming civil service reforms to be “NSPS Lite” under a different name.

(While the finishing touches are being put on the major civil service reform package, check out this sneak preview of things that were being considered.)

Earlier this month NTEU President Colleen Kelley testified on Capitol Hill asking Congress to abolish the Federal Career Intern Program which, she says, isn’t about interns or the career civil service. When OPM announced the streamlined hiring process she said it was a good thing, but should have included the obituary of the FCIP too.

The AFGE said it was also disappointed the executive order didn’t deal with the FCIP issue. The union said if proposed hiring reforms are to have any meaning, the FCIP must be eliminated or “vastly scaled back” and not just “reviewed” as the President has ordered.

Nobody expects unions to break with the administration.

On the other hand, the next time they attend a breakfast meeting with administration officials, watch to see who doesn’t eat the strawberries.

To reach me:

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

The Most Useless Machine Ever” started life as the “Ultimate Machine.” Its sole purpose is to turn off a switch that has been turned on by the user. You can watch it work on YouTube.


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NTEU wants merit system preserved with hiring reform
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