The Congressional Research Service, which tracks legislative issues and collects data for members of Congress, has announced the first layoffs in its 91-year history.

CRS, a part of the Library of Congress, plans to eliminate 59 jobs that provide clerical, technical and audiovisual support by Sept. 30, 2006.

Daniel P. Mulhollan, director of CRS, said the people facing layoffs "are respected and valued employees." The decision to cut staff, he said in a statement, "reflects our continuing commitment to the Congress to maintain a cost effective, accountable and high performance organization dedicated to meeting its statutory mission."

As at many government agencies, the budget is tight at CRS. In a memo to its 694 employees last month, Mulhollan said several factors played into his decision, including the agency's fiscal 2006 budget, "which requires us to reduce our staff size by a significant number."

The "reduction in force" is being opposed by the Congressional Research Employees Association, a part of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers union. According to the employee association, the jobs are filled by workers with an average of 25 years of service to the government. Nearly 70 percent of the employees are women, and about 75 percent are minorities, the association said.

"These facts alone scream for a reevaluation of the RIF decisions made by CRS management," union President Gregory J. Junemann said.

Dennis Roth, president of the employee association, said CRS may face budget problems but they are not severe enough to require layoffs. He said the agency has identified management positions that it plans to fill in the coming year.

The employee association and the union hope that Congress will help ensure that the workers facing layoffs receive fair treatment. "We've got several calls from members of Congress and committees, and we are responding to their concerns . . . and interest seems to be growing on a daily basis," Roth said.

In his statement, Mulhollan said the layoffs were based on "careful study" of CRS responsibilities and congressional concerns and directives. He said the decision "does not reflect on a single individual or on a single division or office."

He said jobs will be created at CRS after it restructures operations and determines the kind of research and analytical staff that will be needed. Employees facing layoffs may apply and compete for the new positions, he said.

Mulhollan said that, in addition to giving the employees notice of the layoffs, CRS will offer early retirements and buyouts worth up to $25,000 to eligible employees. CRS also will provide counselors to assist with job hunting and retirement planning, he said.

According to the association, more than half of the employees facing layoffs earn less than $50,000 a year, and almost everyone else is paid $50,000 to $82,000 annually.

COLA Watch

Federal retirees may get a jumbo COLA next year.

The cost-of-living adjustment for 2006 will be announced next week, but the latest data suggest that retirees could be in line for at least a 3.5 percent COLA. If that happens, it will be one of the biggest boosts in annuity payments in recent years.

The COLA will go to people covered by the Civil Service Retirement System and the newer Federal Employees Retirement System. The amount of the increase can be slightly less for FERS retirees in some circumstances.

Talk Shows

Bruce Mendelsohn of the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund will be the guest on "Fedtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com and WFED radio (1050 AM).

John Sindelar, deputy assistant administrator at the General Services Administration, will be the guest on "The IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"Working for America: GS vs. Pay-for-Performance" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com