The Government Printing Office, which had planned to furlough its 6,000 employes next Tuesday, has put off the furlough because of a heavy workload of congressional printing.

Public Printer Danford L. Sawyer Jr., who has been warned by the Joint Congressional Committee on Printing not to have any furloughs, says he still plans to shut down five to six days this year because of "unprecedented financial losses" this fiscal year.

Sawyer has been at odds with the committee -- chaired by Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) -- over who runs the giant federal printing plant. Although GPO is an agency of Congress, Sawyer is a presidential appointee and he says he has the authority to shut down the plant if it is having financial problems.

He has been at odds with the committee since he announced plans to furlough workers next Tuesday, and additional days around July 5, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sawyer believes that unionized workers at the GPO have a special relationship with the committee that has given them wages 22 percent higher than those of other workers on the same jobs in other agencies. Unions representing more than half of the GPO work force bargain with management over wages, but the committee has the final say.

Sawyer wants to eliminate more than 1,000 GPO jobs over the next couple of years. His final wage offer (to replace a contract expiring in mid-June) proposed a 22 percent pay cut over the next three years.

Unions rejected it. They asked for a 20 percent increase over the next two years. The issue now goes to the joint committee, which plans to appoint an independent fact-finder to recommend a wage settlement.

In a speech yesterday, Sawyer angrily denounced the GPO pay and personnel system. He said craft workers there should be put under the same GS (general schedule) wage and grade system as other federal workers.

Sawyer said he thinks the joint committee should be abolished, and its oversight powers transferred to the public printer. If that is done, he said, "I will present myself to the White House for reassignment, in order that I would in no way appear to benefit from such action."

The 13 unions representing employes at the GPO claim that Sawyer, a wealthy Florida businessman, has run the agency in a high-handed manner, brought in a large number of high-paid assistants, and wants to break collective bargaining rights approved years ago by Congress.

A group of conservative Republican senators, including the powerful Strom Thurmond (S.C.), Mack Mattingly (Ga.), John East and Jesse Helms (N.C.) and Paula Hawkins (Fla.) have advised Majority Leader Howard Baker that they support Sawyer's attempts to make changes in the GPO personnel system, and order furloughs later on if he thinks they are warranted.