The Office of Personnel Management yesterday announced that federal workers will not be given Monday, Dec. 24 off as a Christmas present.
OPM Director Donald J. Devine said that with "significant cuts" being planned in government spending, it would be inappropriate for the government -- with a daily payroll of $223 million -- to give its employes an extra day off.
Normally, when Christmas falls on a Tuesday or Thursday the White House grants employes the Monday before, or the Friday after off. The holiday falls on Tuesday this year.
Devine did say that bosses are encouraged to grant employes annual leave (vacation time) if they want to stretch Christmas into a four-day weekend. He said that supervisors will also be asked to allow employes to go home two to three hours early on Christmas Eve without being charged annual leave.
The decision to keep federal employes on the job -- unless they take annual leave -- will have a major impact on stores and transporation in the Washington area. Many merchants had hoped that there would be a bonus holiday to spur last-minute shopping.
Federal officials estimate that between 30 percent and 40 percent of all government workers will take Dec. 24 off , using their own annual leave.
Administration officials said there was "a lot of soul-searching" at OPM and the White House before the decision was made. "We finally figured out it would look rather foolish if we declared Monday a holiday and then came in two weeks later and told everybody to bite the budget bullet."
Federal workers received bonus holidays -- either the Monday before or the Friday after Christmas -- from President Nixon in 1969, 1970 and 1973. They also got an extra day off in 1975 from President Ford, and then two bonus holidays from President Carter in 1979 and 1980.
The 350,000 government workers in the Washington area will be off Monday, Jan. 21, for Inauguration Day.