Government Printing Office hopes to offer buyouts to 330 workers

June 8, 2011

With a declining need for paper copies of government budgets, booklets and instruction manuals, the Government Printing Office is hoping to scale back, with plans to offer buyouts to about 330 employees as soon as this fall.

The government’s official printing agency, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, said Tuesday that it will seek permission from Congress and the Office of Personnel Management to offer workers up to $25,000 as an incentive to voluntarily leave. The agency said it hopes to cut about 15 percent of its 2,200 workers, including 25 percent of its managers and supervisory personnel.

Agencies must seek authorization from the OPM to offer buyouts. Several agencies adjusting to the federal budget crunch are offering buyouts or laying off workers.

“These challenging economic times have no boundaries and are forcing many Federal agencies to seek ways to survive,” GPO chief executive Bill Boarman said in a statement. “GPO is open for business. We are an agency with a dedicated workforce that will continue to reengineer itself in the 21st century to serve as the digital information platform for the federal government.”

Workers across the agency — including employees at its Washington headquarters and regional offices nationwide — are eligible to apply for the buyouts, according to officials familiar with the plans.

The job cuts are in anticipation of a $20 million budget reduction next fiscal year, according to George Lord, chairman of the GPO’s Joint Council of Unions. Workers were first alerted to the possibility of buyouts three weeks ago, he said.

“The overwhelming amount of people likely to take a buyout would come from our production areas, because of the longevity of those people,” Lord said.

Similar buyouts led to about 400 job cuts during George W. Bush’s administration, he said.

In addition to the buyouts, Congress and the White House are working to scale back the agency’s work. A Senate proposal would require the GPO to print only a few hundred copies of the Congressional Record, instead of thousands, while a White House plan would allow federal offices to opt out of receiving paper copies of the daily Federal Register.

Several other non-security agencies facing a budget squeeze are also using buyouts to trim the rolls. The Agriculture Department and the Smithsonian Institution are offering up to $25,000 to workers to leave. The USDA’s buyouts are for more than 500 employees, most working on conservation programs; the Smithsonian’s offer is primarily for museum employees. The National Zoo recently laid off seven communications and support staffers amid long-running budget constraints.

The U.S. Postal Service is offering $20,000 to administrative staffers in hopes of cutting 7,500 positions by next spring.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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