I have been accurately quoted as stating that the Government Printing Office is "overpriced, overstaffed, overpaid and inefficient." A 1982 General Accounting Office report has found that GPO craft salaries greatly exceed those of similar employees in other federal departments and in the private sector, up to more than 28 percent in one area. Eighty percent of GPO overhead costs for in-plant production are personnel expenses, compared with 40 to 50 percent in the private sector. As a result, the typical job produced by GPO can cost three times as much as privately produced printing.

My recent proposal to the GPO unions' joint bargaining committee would bring about parity with comparable Washington federal employees' salaries by 1984. It was countered with a union proposal for pay increases of more than 20 percent over the next two years. The issue is now in the hands of the congressional Joint Committee on Printing for final determination.

To combat losses brought about by excessive wages and declining customer printing orders, I have instituted a hiring freeze, eliminated between $500,000 and $900,000 in overtime expenditures each month, requested "early-out" retirement authority, cancelled plans for a new $268.8 million plant, initiated a paper waste reduction program and placed tight controls on everything from the purchases of printing equipment and furniture to official travel. In addition, I decided to furlough all employees without pay for one day each month for six months.

The unions have filed suit against me in the U.S. District Court, requesting an injunction enjoining me from furloughing employees. Even more disconcerting, the Joint Committee passed a resolution forbidding me to proceed with the furlough or take any other adverse personnel actions without committee concurrence. It is my belief -- and, more important, that of GPO's general counsel -- that such a resolution is without legal basis. It is also the opinion of the Office of Personnel Management's general counsel that I have the statutory right to furlough without the congressional committee's approval. Therefore, I am proceeding with the planned furloughs.

At the very base of GPO's problems is the role of the Joint Committee. Although it is legitimately the oversight committee for GPO, it has seen its role -- and often referred to itself -- as GPO board of directors. A board of directors in the private sector meets regularly, establishes policy and assumes personal liability for its decisions. The chief executive officer is usually a member of the board and often serves as its chairman.

The relationship between the Joint Committee and GPO is very different. In the year since I became public printer, it has met only twice. It plays no role in GPO's budget process. We operate from a revolving fund, billing our customers for work and using that income to pay wages and other expenses. The committee does not select the Public Printer, either. I am a presidential appointee, confirmed by the Senate and serving at the pleasure of the White House. With such disparity between the private sector and the actual functioning of the Joint Committee, it is very easy to see why we have such difficulties.

A concurrent resolution has been introduced by Sen. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.) and Rep. Eugene Johnston (R-N.C.) calling for legislation that already has won broad-based congressional support. It would estabish parity between the compensation of GPO employees who perform the same or similar tasks. It also would fix wages of all GPO employees in accordance with wage systems applicable to federal employees in the executive branch, making all GPO employees part of the general schedule or federal wage system programs, with commensurate salaries. The resolution also calls for a thorough clarification of the relationship between the Joint Committee on Printing and the Government Printing Office, strenthening the public printer's ability "to take charge and manage" without in any way infringing on the committee's oversight responsibilities. This, I believe, is the key to solving GPO's problems.