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Contractors' complaints about agency 'poaching' of IT pros don't resonate with GCN readers

Some in the information technology industry are concerned about agencies recruiting their employees into government jobs, as Washington Technology’s David Hubler recently reported.

More on this topic from GCN:

Feds accused of 'poaching' contractor employees

Stan Soloway, president and chief executive of the Professional Services Council, said, “I have never heard so much concern about it as I hear today,” and questioned the “heavy-handed tactics that are being used.”

“It’s not just the recruiting and poaching of employees,” Soloway said. “It’s the targeting of individual employees in what would appear to be violations of the Merit System’s hiring and other procedures.”

"It raises some ethical questions for us where you have a direct business relationship, where you’re actually soliciting employees of your supplier," Soloway said. "In the commercial world it is very common to have no-solicitation clauses" in contracts.

GCN readers, however, showed little sympathy. Many of those who posted comments to the story said, in essence, what goes around comes around: Industry has lured government employees into its ranks for years and now the tide has simply turned. And rather than look at it from the point of view of the employer – whether government or industry -- many readers look at it from the perspective of the employee’s opportunities and job security.

Here are a few of their remarks:

  • The contracting companies are whining in the wind. As a former contractor and current government employee I have seen the other side of this. It is not the salary or even the so called job security that attracts current contractors to go to the government side of the house, it is the contracting companies not valuing their employees. They do treat you like a commodity with little if any say so if you happen to disagree with either a business practice or your client's (government) improper or ill advised decision. You are more empowered and respected working from the inside for change.
  • There are two classes of contractor employee: corporate and "the contract workers." The corporate employee has, generally, much better benefits -- medical and retirement -- as well as bonuses and other perks. The "contract worker"? Well, let's just say that they are treated as third class all around. But which group is getting "poached"? The "contract worker" because they possess the requisite skills. Who's complaining? The corporate employee and the corporation.
  • This is ridiculous. As a former SAIC, Lockheed and IBM employee, I can testify from experience that we IT professionals have seen all vestiges of job security disappear. A chance to be on the other side and hopefully make meaning contributions that really make a difference for the nation is something many of us as individuals dream of. Not just earning a living as an IT professional. There is no difference between the federal government recruiting us or a competing company offering us a better position. And BTW – GS-15 jobs are posted daily – subscribe to the announcements, and you most certainly can sue the federal government – that’s what the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is all about. Thank you for the opportunity to state my views.
  • Poaching.....Get a grip, people! "The Government" is YOU!! Your Tax Dollars!! I feel the government should be required to "Try Before You Buy" as someone else stated! Do you want your tax dollars paying for someone who can't perform the job? It is the RIGHT of that contract employee to be solicited by ANY possible employer!!! As a matter of fact it should be Illegal for any employer to take any action against an employee that has been solicited by any possible employer government or otherwise. As far as effecting the economy, lets see, the job did not go away just changed hands, the employee now has a more secure employer, typically better benefits and pay...where is the down side? Come on!
  • Poaching is killing animals who'd probably prefer not to be killed. This is hiring people who would prefer to work for the government and not their current company. The people complaining are just unhappy because this cuts into their billable hours. With the unemployment where it is, they should have no problem filling vacancies.
  • The same thing happens the other way around. Contractors "poach" government employees all of the time. One of my soldiers went to an IT course and at the end of the course he was scooped up by an electronic communications company. Why is it OK for the contractor to do it, but when the government does it then it is not OK. If we are going to ban the practice, then it should be banned by both sides.
  • You have got to be kidding me. 25 years in DOD IT seeing good government IT staff "snatched" away from us by contractors who paid more and promised the moon. Now the economy turns down and the shoe is on the other foot. All I can say is what kind of cheese do those contractors want with their whine.

But contractors have their defenders. Several readers cited what they feel is government’s unfair advantage, particularly with regard to small companies.

  • "No one loses an employee that is happy, well paid and treated well." -- Unless they are threatened with their contract being canceled. We've seen a lot of that lately: contractors who have worked for years in a position being "poached" (or whatever you want to call it) as the agency converts those positions to federal jobs. The contracting companies can not backfill, as the position no longer exists. One contracting company lost 5 of 6 positions in one year. Do the math: this is a devastating blow in an already bad economy. Sue? Sure, but you'll never get another contract within the government. Do the contacting companies recruit/poach federal employees? Sure, especially at retirement. However, they can't threaten those employees with losing their jobs as a means to entice them away as the government can. Sure, there are probably agencies that request that a contractor hire someone until the paperwork can go through to hire them as a fed -- but that sounds like it is pre-agreed upon, and is an indication of other problems within the federal hiring process. This is an unfair practice since -- especially for smaller companies -- there is little or nothing they can do about it.

Whether they work for the government or a contractor, some IT professionals just want a good deal.

  • It's about time Engineering Professionals receive what they need and deserve: excellent pay, good benefits and security. It's time that unnecessary middle layer of excess gets removed from the system, such that the fruits of hard labor go to those who deserve it most, the workers themselves.
  • Ya think?

Posted by Kevin McCaney on Aug 28, 2009 at 9:39 AM


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