Many Arsenal Workers Called Back

October  07, 2013

     One week after being sent home because of the budget stalemate in Washington, many workers on Arsenal Island have returned to work. Following an order over the weekend by the Secretary of Defense, based on a new law, the various commands and agencies began to recall employees.

     Karen Montague is vice president of Local 15 of the American Federation of Government Employees union.  She was told this morning to report tomorrow to her job with the Joint Munitions Command, then called 2 hours later and told to report immediately. Other workers were notified yesterday, while others still don't know. And while she's happy to be back at work, Montague says all this confusion makes her worried about national security.

     "Because this furlough has caused such chaos among Department of Defense employees, I just worry about some sort of national incident, or if something were to happen - we need to be here to respond and not everybody's working and it's a weak system now."

     Approximately 3,000 civilian workers on the Island were laid off last week. As of this morning all 100 of the people furloughed by the Army Garrison have been called back. And the Army Sustainment command says it's called back 90 per cent of those furloughed.  The Joint Munitions Command has called back all of its employees.  

     Following the partial federal government shutdown last week, only about 40 per cent of the local employees of the Army Corps of Engineers were still working. But after new orders from the Defense Department, the Rock Island District is now up to 75 per cent on the job.

     Spokesman Ron Fournier says the callbacks are also the result of some extra money in the budget. 

     "The Corps finished its budget at the end of the fiscal year last year and found that we have some prior year carry-over appropriations that had not been spent yet. So we were allowed to bring some more people back using those funds from last year. And when those funds run out, we will have to start re-furloughing if they have not passed a budget or appropriation."

     No good news though for some other employees of the Rock Island District - the Corps' campgrounds and recreation areas are still closed until further notice as a result of the shutdown.  

     In addition, all Iowa National Guard employees are returning to work as the partial shutdown of the federal government continues.  An interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act has allowed the Defense Department to recall the majority of furloughed employees. After a week of unpaid leave, 1000 federal technicians for the Iowa National Guard have been called back to work. 

     Guard spokesman Colonel Greg Hapgood says the Guard received word on Sunday. "With the technicians gone last week, 50 percent of our workforce was furloughed. Things took longer, and it could really affect our readiness."

     The recall is based on an interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act, signed by President Obama last week, which allows civilian workers who provide direct services to the military to be paid during the shutdown.

     In Iowa, Hapgood says 21 National Guard civilian employees remain on furlough. If the shutdown continues past October 18th, Hapgood says an additional 96 employees will be temporarily laid off. 

     (Iowa Public Radio's Durrie Bouscaren contributed to this report.)