More government workers were fired during the first six months of fiscal 1982 than during all of fiscal 1981, according to a new, detailed survey of federal reductions in force (RIFs) caused by Reagan administration budget cuts.
The survey, compiled through March 31 by Congress' Federal Government Service Task Force, showed 5,321 employes "separated" from their jobs since last Sept. 30, compared with the 4,272 employes who were fired during fiscal 1981.
Examining all types of personnel disruptions, the survey reported that during the first two quarters of this fiscal year alone more than 11,000 government workers were affected by RIFs or RIF-related actions, including 2,327 employes who were downgraded, 2,355 who were reassigned laterally within their agencies, 849 who were forced to retire and 1,003 who took early retirements.
The task force, headed by Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.), drew the survey results from reports filed by 32 federal agencies.
These agencies also reported that since October, when the data-gathering period began, they had furloughed 10,708 employes for at least one day to make their budgets go farther.
Barnes called the combination of RIFs and furloughs "the double whammy that is convincing more and more top employes to leave federal service." He also expressed concern that RIF actions appear to be concentrated on grades 5 through 11, hitting employes at a time when they would normally expect to begin climbing the career ladder.
The brunt of the personnel actions was borne by employes at seven federal agencies -- the Health and Human Services, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Treasury and Interior departments and the Office of Personnel Management. Nearly 17 percent of all firings occurred in the Washington area, where 862 federal workers were RIFfed. In 1981, about 30 percent of the RIFs hit this region, where 12.5 percent of the federal workforce is concentrated.
In contrast to the large number of RIFs and other RIF-related actions that occurred in some agencies, many government departments reported few dismissals and several said they had not needed to fire, furlough, downgrade or retire anyone. This seemed to indicate, according to a task force official, that these agencies had been more willing to use alternatives that avoided RIFs.
The task force's survey, its fourth, also noted that RIFs continue to have a disproportionate impact on minorities and women, although not as severe as a year ago. Still, according to task force director Robert Honig, the RIF process is hurting those who have the least to fall back on.
Since October, 62.9 percent of all employes who lost their jobs were women, the survey showed, although women make up roughly 32 percent of the federal workforce. And though minorities represent about 9 percent of the workforce, 39.2 percent of the fired employes were minorities. Only 20.6 percent of those fired were white males, the survey showed.
Minority women suffered a higher share of RIFs and RIF-related actions than minority men, and white women were hit far harder than white men, according to the survey's results. White men also had a greater share of the less onerous personnel actions -- lateral reassignments, downgradings and forced retirements -- than white women.
Barnes and other members of the task force have criticized current RIF procedures as needlessly disruptive. He has introduced legislation, cosponsored by more than 40 other members of Congress, that would require agency heads to negotiate RIFs with their employes and explore alternative money-savers.