Furloughs planned at depot in June
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Apr 23, 2013 | 7672 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Workers are seen on the M1A1 line at Anniston Army Depot in this file photo. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Workers are seen on the M1A1 line at Anniston Army Depot in this file photo. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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Employees at the Anniston Army Depot could start the first of 14 days of unpaid leave in June, since military officials' efforts to reduce furloughs have so far been unsuccessful.

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, in a Tuesday email to The Star, said workers at the depot are still scheduled for up to 14 furlough days, despite comments Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made last week that the reduction of unpaid leave for military civilian employees was still on the table. The 14 days of furloughs for civilian military workers was announced the last week of March.

"At this point we plan to send out furlough notices to defense civilian employees in May for up to 14 unpaid furlough days from June through September," Robbins wrote. "As the secretary of defense testified to Congress last week, he is re-looking at the number of furlough days ... but unless and until the department receives different guidance, we are planning for up to 14 unpaid furlough days."

More than 2,800 civilian workers at the depot could be furloughed.

Clester Burdell, spokeswoman for the depot, said depot officials still expect furloughs to begin in June.

"As of today, we've not received any additional information or guidance on the topic from our higher headquarters," Burdell said.

The Department of Defense is instituting furloughs due to the federal budget cutbacks known to as sequestration that began March 1. Civilian employees were facing up to 22 furlough days until Congress passed a spending bill in late March that gave the Defense Department more money.

The furloughs are expected to save about $2.5 billion.

Shrene Funderberg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1945, which represents depot workers, said her organization is still fighting to get the furloughs reduced further.

"The depot should have already been exempt from the furloughs," Funderburg said. "We don't have enough people to what we need to do."

She said there was plenty of work to do at the depot this year.

"We have enough work, these furloughs just puts us behind," Funderburg said."

The civilian workers at the depot repair, modify and upgrade various heavy and light-armored vehicles along with self-propelled artillery and small arms.

Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, said the furloughs will result in a significant economic impact to the local economy since workers will have less money to spend at area businesses.

"It is an economic impact on top of the 371 temporary and term employees who were laid off," Hill said.

The depot released all its 371 temporary and term employees from their contracts at the end of March due to the drawdown from the Afghanistan war.

Hill agreed with Funderburg that the furloughs could also impact the depot's mission.

"What we're seeing from the workload data is there is work out there to be done," Hill said. "And if there are furloughs ... it will be hard for them to meet schedule."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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