Congressional auditors say the taxpayers "lose" about $1 million in services each federal holiday because Uncle Sam insists on paying some of his civilian workers more than others, for doing nothing.
In effect, the General Accounting Office says that it is tolerable for the government to pay employes for an 8-hour day when they are on holiday, but that something is wrong when agencies pay people for 9 or 10 hours nonwork days.
The problem is an outgrowth of the rapidly expanding federal experiment with the 4-day week and compressed work schedules. Currently nearly 40,000 employes get regular three-day weekends by working four, 10-hour days each week. Another 48,000 get a long weekend twice a month by working flexible, compressed schedules. Most federal employes remain on the standard 8-hour day.
The problem crops up nine times each year, with each federal holiday. On those days nonessential workers are paid to stay home, as are their counterparts in the private sector. Regular government employes get paid for 8-hour days each holiday. Buth those on the 4-day week are paid for 9 or 10 hours -- depending on their regular workday -- each holiday.
GAO says that while no extra money is paid out -- since all workers remain on basic, 80-hour (two week) pay periods, the taxpayers are losing as much as $1 million each holiday by paying some workers for extra time off, over and above the regular 8-hour day.
"We are concerned about the added fringe benefit," GAO says, "that approximately 86,000 federal employes on a compressed work schedule will receive because of the law's pay-for-holiday provisions." GAO undertook the study for the House Compensation Subcommittee, which is monitoring the 4-day week experiment.
The added "fringe benefit is inequitable to other federal employes," according to the GAO report. It says workers on compressed work schedules should receive "no more or no less paid absences from work" than other civil servants.
Under the test program, the Office of Personnel Management concluded that it was the intent of Congress that people working 8-hour days get paid for 8 hours on holidays, and those working regular 9 or 10 hour days get paid 9 or 10 hours on holidays. OPM officials say that regular part-timers working 4-hour days get paid for 4 hours on holidays.
Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.) is working on a compromise plan that could solve the situation administratively without anybody being short-changed, or federal agencies being forced to make massive schedule changes around every holiday for their 4-day-week people.
Decentralization Flap: General Services Administration brass say they know nothing about proposals to transfer personnel from Archives, Federal Supply Service or other major GSA units to the field. A new study by the Office of Management and Budget ("Study of Decentralization of Federal Governmental Functions") says that 9,200 jobs in 13 agencies have been targeted as possible candidates for decentralization.
The OMB study, outlined here Sunday, lists nearly 5,000 GSA jobs that are potential candidates for moves -- if Congress insists on reducing the federal population here. But GSA leaders say they aren't planning to move any large groups of people from Washington and did not propose or nominate any groups of workers to the OMB.