Employes at the Community Services Administration were given a possible new lease on life yesterday when a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order moving the Sept. 30 reduction in force (RIF) of 950 antipoverty workers back by two days.
U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn granted the restraining order pending a preliminary hearing Oct. 2 on whether CSA workers -- who are scheduled to lose their jobs when that agency is abolished next Wednesday --should instead be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is assuming the administration of programs now run by CSA.
John Karr, attorney for the union representing CSA employes, said the 950 antipoverty workers, about half of whom work in the Washington office, are being illegally fired in defiance of civil service protections allowing them to transfer to HHS.
"Whenever there is a transfer of functions to another agency, that agency has to take the employes that were performing those functions and allow them to compete for jobs in the agency," Karr said.
The National Council of CSA Locals, a unit of the American Federation of Government Employees, went to court last week to stop the scheduled RIFs. The union contends that legislation abolishing CSA stipulated that its programs should continue for the coming year until new antipoverty duties are assumed by the states.
At CSA headquarters yesterday there was confusion about what the judge's ruling meant for employes facing termination Sept. 30. Karr said the union would inform them before that date whether they should continue to report for work until a final court ruling is issued. The attorney for HHS had no comment on the ruling by yesterday evening.
"These are the veterans of the War on Poverty, and if the War on Poverty is to continue, then these people ought to be in the trenches," Karr said. "That's what this legal action is all about."