Federal employees at OPM, NIH win job competitions

Test administrators at the Office of Personnel Management and property managers at the National Institutes of Health prevailed Wednesday over contractors vying for federal work.

Roughly 900 part-time federal employees who give civil service tests on behalf of agencies and the military won a public-private job competition, an OPM official announced. The in-house workers administer tests intermittently at locations across the country. Keeping these jobs at OPM is equivalent to retaining 200 full-time employees, the official said.

Meanwhile, OPM will open roughly 630 customer service and administrative positions to competition in 2004, the official said. Workers providing retirement and insurance services, as well as administrative support will need to compete for their jobs. Most are employed at OPM's Washington headquarters or the agency's offices in Pittsburgh and Boyers, Pa. The competition should last about one year.

OPM will provide its employees with all the support they need to submit a strong bid on the work, the agency official said. Federal employees have won every A-76 competition OPM has conducted so far.

When in-house teams prevail in job studies, the agency still benefits from gains in efficiency, said Steve Benowitz, associate director of OPM's division for human resources products and services. OPM employees presiding in two 2002 competitions found "better ways to do their work" and saved the agency $2.3 million, he added.

Job competitions require employees on the in-house team to divert some of their attention from routine work responsibilities, Benowitz acknowledged. But OPM tries to minimize the burden on agency team members, he said. "These are employees who are very dedicated and devoted to their work."

At the National Institutes of Health, property management services workers won a bid to retain their jobs. The in-house team prevailed because it submitted a less expensive proposal than the one contractor participating in the competition, according to an agency announcement.

This is the second significant A-76 study won by NIH employees this year. In late September, a team of 677 grants management assistants kept their jobs after the one company vying for the work submitted a proposal falling short of the contract's requirements.

"Once again NIH employees have prepared an outstanding bid and have won the competition, once again demonstrating that we are committed to careful stewardship of taxpayers' resources," said Elias Zerhouni, the agency's director, in a statement. "Now our challenge is to successfully implement the new management process."

But the competition results are not entirely good news, according to Richard Laubach, an NIH maintenance worker and president of American Federal of Government Employees Local 2419. The in-house team proposal eliminates about 150 property management jobs that are currently filled.

The union will now concentrate on ensuring that NIH workers affected by the competition will have "fair access to their post-award benefits," Laubach said.