Last week’s announcement that furloughs for civilian Defense Department employees would end earlier than planned was good news for Tooele County’s civilian defense workers.
Since July 8, Tooele County civilian defense workers, along with their colleagues nationwide, have had their salaries and workweeks shortened by eight hours each week.
The furloughs were scheduled to run until the end of September, but will end this this week. They were designed to help DoD meet a requirement to trim $37 billion from its 2013 budget as part of the federal sequestration process.
“Effectively since the furloughs started, our pay has been reduced by 20 percent,” said Miceal Unrein, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2185. “Cutting the number of furloughs is good news.”
The union represents federal employees at Tooele Army Depot, Deseret Chemical Depot, and Dugway Proving Ground.
Prior to the furloughs, overtime was eliminated, which reduced the average salary at Tooele Army Depot by 10 percent, according to Kathy Anderson, TAD public affairs officer.
“For our civilian employees the effects of sequestration has been a 30 percent reduction in pay,” she said. “For families with two wage earners working at DoD installations the cut was 60 percent.”
For TAD workers the furloughs meant workers went from four ten hour days to five eight hour days with Fridays as the furlough day each week.
With the announcement last week by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that the number of furlough days will be reduced from 11 to six, most civilian DoD workers in Tooele County will return to their normal four ten hour day schedule next week.
“We have a few employees that were overseas during the furloughs that have until Sept. 30 to complete their 48 hours of furlough time,” Anderson said.
The early end to furloughs was due to an arrangement with congress that allowed DoD to shift funds from acquisition accounts into day-to-day operations along with lower than expected expenses in some areas.
While affected DoD workers are relieved to have their pay restored, the future stability of their pay is uncertain, Unrein said.
There are more budget cuts ahead in the next fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.
“If Congress does not change the Budget Control Act, DoD will be forced to cut an additional $52 billion in FY 2014,” Hagel said in his prepared statement announcing the reduction of 2013’s furloughs. “This represents 40 percent more than this year’s sequester-mandated cuts of $37 billion. Facing this uncertainty, I cannot be sure what will happen next year, but I want to assure our civilian employees that we will do everything possible to avoid more furloughs.”
With 1,441 employees and an annual payroll of $104.5 million, DoD is the second largest employer in Tooele County.