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Library of Congress Completes RIF at CRS

The Library of Congress informed Congressional overseers on Wednesday that it has completed a reduction in force at the Congressional Research Service without having to dismiss any affected employees from Library service.

“I am pleased that the Library was able to conclude this reduction-in-force while assuring continued employment of impacted staff and cost continuity,” LOC Chief Operating Officer Jo Ann Jenkins wrote in a letter to the House Administration Committee.

The RIF process began in September 2005 when CRS officials informed 59 employees that their jobs would be eliminated by the end of September 2006.

Though the move was disputed from the outset by the Congressional Research Employees Association, the Library moved ahead with the effort in late 2005 by offering buyouts and early retirement options to the affected staffers who mostly worked in production support, technical support assistance and audiovisual areas. The actual RIF process began this past June and affected the 29 employees who did not accept the buyout.

After a freeze was put on Library-wide hiring in the affected job series, 15 of the 29 staffers received and accepted offers for vacant positions at equal pay grades. Five more CRS staffers accepted vacant positions at a lower pay grade, but those employees will retain their former grade for two years and have “a clear path” over the next two years to qualify for the higher grades they previously held.

Two staffers were rehired into equal grade positions at CRS and two more retired from federal service.

The final five staffers opted to use their “bumping rights” to claim occupied positions elsewhere in the Library at their current grade levels. The incumbents of those five positions were then offered and accepted lower grade positions. They also will retain their previous grades for two years and the Library is working to provide them with training to help them return to their original grades.

CREA President Dennis Roth said that though the union continues to disagree with claims that the RIF was necessary, “we are pleased that everybody was able to keep a position in the Library and at their current grade.”

However, Roth said, “we still do not understand the business practices that led to this decision.”

He said that the union still is waiting to see the CRS business studies on which the staff reduction was originally based. An independent arbitrator ruled last year that the Library must provide those studies to CREA.

Meanwhile, “we’re still trying to evaluate the impact of the RIF on our staff,” Roth said. “We’re trying to determine if the process of getting our work out has improved, stayed the same or gotten worse because of these changes.”

Saul Schniderman, president of the LOC Professional Guild, AFSCME 2910 — the union representing the employees who found themselves “bumped” because of the RIF — said, “the employees are not happy but the guild is satisfied that the Library followed the reduction in force article to the best of their ability. …

“Our people found themselves in the line of fire from CRS and as a result our members were RIF-ed,” he added. “They are not happy about this. Now they are in the priority placement program in attempting to get them back to the grade level from which they tumbled.”

In other CRS news, agency Director Daniel Mulhollan sent a memorandum to all CRS staff on Tuesday announcing new changes in the agency’s policy toward providing CRS products to “non-Congressionals.”

“To ensure consistency in the Service’s policy on sharing CRS products with non-congressional audiences, distribution controls are being strengthened and clarified,” Mulhollan wrote in the memo. “I have concluded that prior approval should now be required at the division or office level before products are distributed to members of the public.”

Mulhollan went on to explain that Congressional statutes and policy guidance have made it clear that CRS is restricted from making broad publication of its products and that on occasion research divisions have received and responded to product requests from public sources “at their own initiative.”

A CRS spokeswoman said Wednesday that the reason for the new policy “is not to curb the distribution of products but rather to make sure that across the service there’s consistency. … I don’t think it would be a roadblock or stumbling block in terms of the free exchange of information and ideas for our analysts.”

Mulhollan’s announcement comes just over two months after he announced new changes to the agency’s media interaction policy. Those changes, which he said were designed to help maintain CRS’ reputation as an impartial agency, required staffers to inform management within 24 hours of any interviews conducted with the press.

The CRS spokeswoman said the latest announcement stems from the agency-wide policy review that was undertaken leading up to the January announcement.

Jenkins, Mulhollan, Librarian of Congress James Billington and other top LOC officials will appear before the House Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch this morning to discuss the agency’s fiscal 2008 budget request.

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