The four-day week is becoming more common in some federal agencies, not as an accommodation for workers, but as a way of cutting spending. Some civil servants, ordered to work 32-hour weeks, are taking 20 percent pay cuts as a result.
As the Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year draws closer, more employes may find themselves facing furloughs as their agencies, through miscalculations, have to battle with Congress or hard luck to find money to meet payrolls.
The latest agency to announce that it would begin sending employes home early is the Peace Corps.
Most of the Peace Corp's 540 workers here got the word yesterday. They were told that, beginning in July, they will be furloughed one day a week until the end of September.
The order affects most of the 210 employes of the management division, and 230 employes of the marketing, recruiting, planning and staging division. Employes in the international operations division will not be affected, nor will presidential appointees.
Peace Corps officials said yesterday that the furloughs are necessary because the agency's salaries and expenses account is running low. They said that they had hired additional employes in anticipation of approval by the Office of Management and Budget that didn't materialize.
In addition, Peace Corps officials said, job turnover, which normally runs about 5 percent a year, is down to about 2 percent, so the savings cannot be accomplished by attrition.
Some Peace Corps workers, and officials of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union that represents many of them, say mismanagement is the problem.
Employes at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may face furloughs because of a different kind of money problem, which could result in most of the 3,200 workers being furloughed for up to three days in September.
The Federal Times reports that the furloughs are possible because the EEOC plans to divert more than $1 million from its salary and expenses fund to help pay for outside legal services in court cases in which the agency is involved.
Furloughs have come and gone (at least temporarily) for more than 1,000 employes at the Interstate Commerce Commission. They took their 20 percent pay cut earlier this year, following a funds battle between the agency and Congress.
There was a time when agencies threatened furloughs to get Congress to act. Most people understood that it was a budget-battle game and accepted it as part of life in Washington. But in recent years furloughs have hit a number of federal employes and, with the fiscal year about to end, there is a good chance that other agencies may have to put their people on four-day weeks, too.