Anniston Army Depot furloughs reduced to 6 days
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Aug 08, 2013 | 4230 views |  0 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Workers file out of the Anniston Army Depot in their vehicles at the end of their shift  in this file photo. Photo by Trent Penny.
Workers file out of the Anniston Army Depot in their vehicles at the end of their shift in this file photo. Photo by Trent Penny.
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William Thrash just wants he and his co-workers at the Anniston Army Depot to better support U.S. soldiers fighting overseas.

With the Department of Defense's Wednesday decision to reduce scheduled unpaid leave from 11 to six days for its civilian workers, Thrash will get his wish.

Depot workers have already served the first four of the previously scheduled 11 furlough days, according to reports from the depot. With the latest reduction, most depot employees will serve their last two furlough days today and next week. The furloughs are due to sequestration, a series of major federal budget cuts that began in March.

"I'm tickled to death that they cut furloughs down to six days," said Thrash of Heflin. "But they should never have cut civilian workers in the first place because we're supporting those guys fighting."

The depot employs 2,817 people, most of whom repair, modify or upgrade combat vehicles and small arms for the military.

According to a DOD press release, additional savings were found elsewhere in the military's budget, resulting in the furlough reductions.

Col. Brent Bolander, commander of the depot, said due to the furlough reduction, workers will return to their standard nine-hour work-day schedule Monday after previously having to work eight hours per day. Bolander said he anticipates many depot employees working overtime in the coming months to meet production schedules.

"Based on the early end to the furlough, we should be able to recoup some of the delayed production we've experienced during the coming weeks," Bolander said.

Bolander said he recognizes the hardships depot workers have faced due to the furloughs.

"While we are glad the furlough was reduced by five days, it has placed a financial strain on many employees," he said. "But even as they went through this trying time, they never lost sight of our mission and the contributions they make to national security."

Charles Barclay, second vice president for the American Federation of Government Employees, local 1945, which represents depot workers, said the union has done everything possible to get the furloughs reduced.

"We have put enough pressure on the DOD ... so we're glad in that sense, but we're still very upset furloughs started and haven't been cancelled completely," Barclay said.

Thrash, who has worked at the depot for a decade, most recently in the budget office, said the furloughs have been a burden for him and his fellow workers.

"This paycheck I've got coming in is several hundred dollars short and the one I've got coming in next week will be several hundred dollars short," Thrash said. "And I've got car insurance, housing and land tax due next month."

Thrash said he is cutting back spending on different things like new school clothes for his grandchildren while many other depot employees are carpooling and spending less to make ends meet.

"We're hunkering down," he said.

Nathan Hill, military liaison for the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, said the furlough reductions will greatly benefit depot employees and the area.

"I've talked to depot employees, and they think this is a great move," Hill said. "It will help them plan their expenditures for the rest of the year."

Still, with sequestration expected to continue next year, there is still the threat of future furloughs or even layoffs for the depot and other civilian employees, Hill said.

"I hope that's not the case," Hill said.

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

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