The D.C. Consumer Protection Office will lose half its staff Monday as part of a citywide layoff of 1,200 workers paid under the federal CETA jobs program, city officials reported yesterday.
Money to pay the workers ran out yesterday. Although Congress voted during its adjournment rush last weekend to extend and finance a curtailed CETA program, the U.S. Department of Labor has not notified the city how many workers it can put on the new paryroll.
The layoffs affect only workers hired by government agencies and nonprofit private organizations under a so-called "special projects" provision of the Comprehensive Employment and Traning Act, from which CETA draws its intitials.
Another 1,246 workers hired under other provisions of the law - mainly in "public service" jobs solely with government agencies - are not affected.
CETA funding for most special projects will be resumed later, according to the Rev. Jesse Anderson, CETA operations director for the D.C. Department of Labor, which administers the local program. He predicted this would take "a couple of weeks."
However, Anderson said his department already had decided to discontinue financing for 16 CETA workers on the 33-member staff of the Office of Consumer Protection.
Bettie J. Robinson, consumer protection director, said she learned of the rejection from a reporter. "I was not given the courtesy of any (official) explanation," she said.
Robinson said she telephoned Mayor Walter E. Washington to complain. The mayor's press office said yesterday that the city's labor agency had been told to take a second look at the situation and try to do something about it.
Such a slash in her office would be devasting, Robinson said, since the CETA workers hold vital posts in consumer education and the investigation of the more than 400 public complaints the office receives each month.
Robinson said she would prefer to have a staff hired as part of the regular city payroll, but has not received the appropriations to make that possible.
Three employes of the consumer protection office who are leaders of a citywide coalition of CETA workers called a press conference to protest the cuts. The employes - Karen De-Vaughn, Dick Jones and Vic Simons - contended that all CETA funding for the consumer agency was cut off in reprisal because of their leadship of the coalition, which has sharply criticized the city's administration of CETA.
Anderson denied there were any reprisals, but said he was not permitted to disucss details of why the consumer office got CETA funds last year but has been denied them for the near future.
The mayor's press office said one reason was the consumer office's lack of success in placing CETA workers in permanent jobs within the agency - a condition resulting from the large number of CETA employes in relation to the size of the agency, which has little turnover among regular employes.