Labor toughens hiring rules for service contractors

Labor Department officials have decided that incoming contracting companies, and their subcontractors, must offer jobs to current employees before finding workers elsewhere.

The policy mandates that federal service contracts have a clause requiring companies to offer those to the previous contractor's employees, whose jobs would end as a result of the new award -- a right of first refusal of employment, according to a rule published in the Aug. 29 Federal Register.

Officials did not give a date as to when the final rule would take effect. They will publish another notice with the starting date after officials decide the date. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council first must issue regulations.

The new rule carries out President Barack Obama’s Jan. 30, 2009, Executive Order on Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts. It replaces a President George W. Bush order from 2001, which overturned an order from President Bill Clinton.

The idea behind Obama's order is that the government can continue operations more smoothly when a successor service company hires the previous company’s employees.


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“A carryover workforce reduces disruption to the delivery of services during the period of transition between contractors,” officials wrote in the notice.

In comments in the proposed rule, groups raised questions about employees and their job performance with the previous company. They pointed out that companies may not to want to share employees’ work evaluations for privacy reasons.

Labor officials disagreed.

“The department is not convinced that evidence of past poor performance would be difficult to obtain,” they wrote.

The groups also questioned if the outgoing contractor would take good employees and leave the others behind for the new contractor.

In the final months of a contract, “those remaining employees will likely have more experience with the contract and contracting agency than new hires recruited by the successor contractor for the purpose of filling the contract requirements,” officials wrote.

The Professional Services Council reiterated its frustrations with the rule. Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, called the rule inappropriate and even counterintuitive.

“While experience shows that companies often hire as many qualified incumbents as possible to avoid the costs of training new employees, this rule denies those companies, who have full responsibility for performance under the contract, their ability to select a workforce they believe is best suited to meeting the contract requirements,” Soloway said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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