Federal workers who fear an outbreak of budget-induced unemployment this summer will get a preview today of their chances of being hit by a RIF (reduction in force) from a congressional group that has been monitoring layoff plans of government agencies.
The data, painstakingly worked up by the Federal Government Services Task Force (a coalition of House and Senate members who represent thousands of voters who also work for Uncle Sam), will provide the best forecast yet as to the number of jobs currently targeted for extinction because of budget-program cuts in the works. The task force is headed by Rep. Mike Barnes (D-Md.), who represents a big chunk of the 366,000 civil servants who work for metropolitan Washington's biggest company, the U.S. government.
Officials say it will be many weeks before the full impact of layoffs here and in the rest of the country is known. Much will depend on how many federal workers retire (and create vacancies) over the next couple of months, and how many on RIF lists can be placed in other jobs.
On May 18, this column reported that RIF watchers at the Office of Personnel Management anticipated that 3,700 jobs -- based on voluntary data supplied by federal agencies -- were on the RIF hit list as of that date. The number from the task force will be somewhat higher, because the congressional unit drew on sources from unions and agencies (some of whom were not very cooperative) OPM head counters didn't or couldn't tap.
Hundreds of federal workers here and around the country have already received RIF notices. That means that layoffs are coming in their agencies and their jobs -- depending on their seniority, veterans status and the like -- are on the line.
The task force is expected to provide better data than just raw numbers of jobs endangered by the RIFs (jobs are not always the same as people) because totals have been broken down where possible by agency. Some offices will be hit hard by the RIFs, others will hire people during the summer RIFfing period.
Today's figures are not the final word. Numbers will be updated as agency plans for RIFs become more firm, and as agencies find out how many employes plan to retire over the summer, thereby sparing some younger, less senior people from being canned.
Many agencies have asked, or will ask, the Office of Personnel Management for special permission to allow longtime workers (with 25 years of service, or those at least age 50 with 20 years service) to retire immediately. The idea is to create vacancies and minimize the need for RIFs. OPM, under pressure from Congress, has been taking a hard line. It has bounced many blanket requests for early-out authority back to agencies, telling them to come back and ask again but only for specific groups of workers -- by grade level, occupation or region -- whose functions are to be hard hit by RIFs. But now members of Congress, who are hearing from constituents who work for the government, are pressuring OPM to be more understanding and to be generous with the early-outs so that fewer younger feds will be fired.