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CRS Staff Reduction Draws Criticisms

The Congressional Research Service’s labor committee sprang into action last week to protest CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan’s decision to eliminate 59 production support, technical support assistant and audio-visual support jobs by Sept. 30, 2006.

Mulhollan announced the force reduction within Congress’ public policy research arm in a Sept. 22 memorandum distributed to all CRS staff. He wrote that “advances in technology, together with the needs of Congress, have changed the way CRS works with the Congress. As a result, production and technical support functions have changed, are undertaken in other areas of the Service, or can be accomplished by other means.”

And while Mulhollan said CRS would be creating new administrative, product preparation and technology support positions in fiscal 2006 to fill the changing needs of Congress, the memorandum explained that “we anticipate that fewer staff will be required to carry out these functions, that the grade level for some of these positions may be lower than that of positions currently held by production support and technical support assistants, that some functions may be contracted-out, and that there may be differences in the organizational placement of some positions.”

The memo said that affected staff would be offered separation through the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority or Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment plans, the latter pending Congressional approval.

“Between now and the end of December, affected staff will also have an opportunity to participate in retirement and career counseling, and we are exploring the possibility of providing each individual a set amount of time to pursue other job opportunities,” the memo said.

But in a release last week, the Congressional Research Employees Association raised objections to the reduction in force, calling it an “ill-conceived decision” that was undertaken “because management failed to make timely and appropriate decisions” that could have avoided the job reduction.

“In the late 1990’s CREA brought to CRS management’s attention concerns about the impact that technology was having on production support positions,” the release states. “We did not want to see what took place on September 22nd and tried to work with management to prevent such actions. A study was performed … and a report was issued in January 2000. Staff [reductions in force] were not part of the recommendations.”

CREA blames CRS management for ignoring that study “even though they have been encouraged on a regular basis to take action. … Instead of reallocating staff to where they are needed, offering training, updating position descriptions and limiting competition for revised jobs to CRS staff, CRS management decided to wipe the slate clean by [eliminating the jobs of] incumbents and opening any new positions to the entire world.”

CREA’s board of governors is meeting on a daily basis to plan its response to the reduction in force, which could include legal action, the release said.

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