Advocates of the custom-tailored approach for handling reorganization-related problems of federal agencies have won out in the Carter Administration. At least temporarily.
Rather than extend special benefits and retirement options government-wide, the Civil Service Commission has decided to handle each agency's downgrading or reorganization problems individually. Some will get permission to defer downgrading actions (like HEW) while other agencies will be told to go ahead with demotion actions to correct overgrading errors as discovered.
Some federal agencies will be give permission to authorize early retirement (at age 50 with 20 years service, or at any age with 25 years service) if reorganization means they must resort to layoffs. Others will be told to freeze hiring and some agencies may be required to take employees declared surplus by others.
Meantime the Carter Administration will push for quick congressional action on the White House bill to grant partial pay and grade saving benefits to employees hit by downgradings resulting from reorganization changes.
Officials are opposed to any merger with the bill by Rep. Robert N.C. Nix (D-Pa.) that would give lifetime grade guarantees (back-dated two years) to employees hit by demotions that result from agency grade classification errors.
Two actions in the last two weeks by top CSC officials spell out - at least for now - the Administration policy toward handling and helping federal workers hit by their two biggest job fears; layoffs and demotions resulting from reorganization or misclassification of job duties.
Policy No. 1 came in a directive from the President dealing specifically with layoffs which may occur because of agency consolidation and reorganization.
In it, the President authorizied CSC to be generous with it's authority to grant limited "early out" retirement to agencies. That can be done either agency wide, if CSC thinks the problem is serious enough; or limited to bureaus within an agency, or specific geographic areas hit by reductions in force.
(Already the government is taking action to find new jobs, or grant early retirement to workers at the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. Despite a campaign promise by Vice President Walter Mondale that Carter would not allow Army to shut down the facility, it is being closed and workers are being placed in special programs designed to find them jobs in other agencies nearby.)
Last week CSC's three commissioners vetoed the idea of automatically giving the so-called HEW treatment to other agencies. The giant Department has been given permission to defer any classification-error-related downgradings it wants for several years. Reason for this is that HEW - through its own efforts - discovered so many overgraded jobs while it is also being affected by the reorganization it is pioneering.
Other agencies will get HEW treatment if the Commission believes they qualify; but CSC's commissioners objected to any proposal to automatically give demotion deferral authority to agencies. They will have to come in to CSC and justify that action, and then CSC will grants deferrals for as long as it deems necessary.