Many federal agencies are seriously considering a variety of tough, money-saving schemes including RIFs (layoffs), furloughs, hiring and promotion freezes, a ban on all but emergency travel and training or encouraging workers to volunteer to go on leave-without-pay (LWOP) for short periods.
There is growing likelihood that some agencies may furlough workers in nonessential units during the Christmas and New Year period. This would shut down operations for 10 days (from Friday, Dec. 25, to Monday, Jan. 4). Workers furloughed, if it comes to that, would be in a LWOP status for four days, drastically reducing the daily$36 million payroll here.
Defense Department units, which employ 89,000 of the 360,000 civilian feds here, generally are exempt from the budget and payroll squeeze that is causing uncertainty, nightmares and morale problems in most agencies.
The problem is that the Reagan administration has decreed a12-percent spending cutback this fiscal year (starting Oct. 1) for most agencies, including all or parts of Defense, IRS, Immigration and Naturalization Service, VA and the FBI. Many federal agencies are operating under a continuing resolution, which expires Nov. 20, that allows them to spend at current levels pending congressional approval of their budgets. Reagan says that he wants agencies to trim spending until Congress -- he hopes -- approves his new budget targets. Office of Management and Budget has, or will have, assigned new (mostly lower) spending levels to agencies. These levels cannot, by law, be exceeded unless and until Congress raises them.
Nondefense agencies are caught in a double squeeze. They have been told to trim employment by 75,000 jobs over the next two years and also to make 12-percent spending cuts that could whack another 75,000 jobs this fiscal year. If those cuts stick, agencies that decide to go the RIF route will have to get moving to get the maximum savings. This could mean major RIFs around the corner.
Labor Department, as reported here Oct. 14, has warned its 21,000 workers (7,600 here) that it may have to fire 2,640 people over the next few months. Other agencies that spend most of their funds(70 percent or more) on personnel, rather than programs, are in a similar bind. If they must make cuts, the logical and largest place is in payroll.
Public Health Service has put a temporary hold on plans to RIF as many as 2,000 people here in ADAMHA, HSA, Human Resources Administration and the Office of the Secretary for Health. Officials are studying their budget situations and will be making some kind of RIF announcement shortly.
OMB has told agencies that may be deeply hurt by budget cuts to come back to it seeking relief, documenting their situations, before making any drastic RIFs. Agencies are supposed to give employes30-day RIF notices, so the time for decision, for some, is just weeks away.
Furloughs or Firing? A number of federal workers have asked us to ask you if you would be willing to give up a day or two of pay to save someone in your agency from being fired. That has been done in private industry with union approval.Arlene Selis of the Parklawn Training Center, for example, thinks that a lot of people would be willing to sacrifice four days of pay -- between Christmas and New Year -- to get a 10-day "vacation" and, more importantly, save jobs. One Health and Human Services aide said he had polled 44 people in his section, and that 40 said they would go temporarily to a four-day week, if it would prevent RIFs. So what is your pleasure? Would you forgo a day or two of pay to prevent or minimize RIFs in your agency? Send a card or letter with a yes or no vote. Tell us your agency if you like. Send it to me, c/o The Washington Post, Washington, 20071. We will take a fast count and pass the results on to your agency head -- and to President Reagan.