Union files suit to 'Hold that intern!'

Thursday - 5/6/2010, 11:50am EDT

Colleen Kelley, president, NTEU

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The National Treasury Employees Union has filed suit to stop the Federal Career Intern Program.

Union president Colleen Kelley told Federal News Radio, she has nothing against intern programs in general, but said the FCIP is not being used as it was intended.

There are other internships in the federal government, and internships that NTEU fully supports. NTEU thinks there is a critical role to be played for real internships, but when you have agencies like the IRS, Customs and Border Protection and the FDIC using it to control virtually all of their technical entry level positions... I mean we're talking about over 27,000 positions have been filled using this authority and there is nothing internship about these positions. They are permanent, full-time positions. They carry with them a two year probationary period and then they claim that at the end of the two years they convert them from an intern into a permanent employee. But there is nothing special about the first two years of their employment that's any different than someone permanently in the job.

So if there's nothing really different about it, then why would agencies be using the FCIP as an ersatz hiring authority? Kelley summed it up in one word: speed.

They see this FCIP as a process that is faster. They can literally go out and post a vacancy in one location for two days and that is the only applicant pool that ever becomes that the vacancy exists. The whole premise of the federal hiring system, of course, is that there is a broad pool of applicants who have access to the variety of positions available in the federal government. And then, of course, that veterans preference is a factor in that too. The FCIP has no process that honors, respects, or follows and provides for veterans preference, which should be of great concern to many.

The NTEU doesn't want to see the FCIP changed. They want it gone. "NTEU believes this program should be eliminated," said Kelley. "Agencies should not be allowed to use it as their... primary hiring authority, which is exactly what they're doing today."

NTEU has an ongoing suit against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) challenging its regulations implementing the FCIP.