Because of high turnover in its clerical ranks, the government five years ago stopped automatically giving proficiency tests to clerks, typists, stenographers and secretaries. Instead it switched to a "self-certification" system whereby job applicants attested to their own typing and steno skills.
In many agencies the clerical staffers, who are paid starting salaries ranging from $11,458 to $16,040, are the backbone of the office. But in some, judging from calls and letters, they are the roadblocks of the office.
Here are some interesting Monday morning quarterback letters on this and other subjects:
* "As a federal worker who spent 20 years on the 'outside,' I was shocked to learn that individuals who want to work for the government as typists, stenos or secretaries are not automatically given a typing test. The Office of Personnel Management found it 'too costly' to keep open a room at its headquarters where such tests were given. Unbelievable!
"As a result, agency personnel offices hire the alleged typists, stenos and secretaries and send them to you when they have already been sworn in and you have no choice in the selection process. Then, guess what? Yes, you then have to release the individual for God knows how long to go to a class to, hopefully, learn to type. People in business and industry who hear about this procedure are astounded . . . .
"Question: Do readers think it is fair to either the taxpayer, or the federal manager, or to other employes of the federal government to allow such an abuse to continue?" -- Anguished Manager Who Typed This Myself
* "I don't work for the federal government and I have no particular ax to grind. My work takes me into many federal offices, and I phone many in the course of my business.
"On an almost daily basis I am shocked by the poor quality of the workers -- men as well as women -- who sit 'up front' to meet and deal with the public or to take telephone calls.
"I realize the need for civil service protections, but it strikes me (and others) that clerical talent in the government is of a very low quality when compared with the private sector. The one exception I notice is in congressional offices where all staff personnel, from the lowest paid to the professional levels, seem to be alert and outstanding." -- Just A Salesman
* "Your June 2 column pointed out that out-of-town newspaper editorials heavily favored the reappointment of Donald Devine to head the Office of Personnel Management, and that members of Congress read and heed newspaper editorials.
" . . . You neglected to point out that newspaper owners and their capitive editors are relatively wealthy . . . of a class not particularly prolabor, that would predictably support Devine.
"Also, you failed to point out that in 'whom-do-you-trust?' polls the media has fared little better than used car salesmen and politicians. Politicians seldom get where they are by ignoring such obvious corollary conclusions." -- M.C.B., Falls Church
* "Among other proposed cuts, federal workers will most likely be denied pay raises next year. This in the interest of reducing the federal deficit. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of workers in defense-related companies will get the raises, especially those working on bloated cost-plus contracts for the government. Since both groups are paid from taxes and equally affect the federal deficit, can someone out there explain the fairness of denying the raises only to federal employes?"