Benning furloughs to begin Monday

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 6, 2013 

Four months after sequestration hit, some services at Fort Benning may take longer and schedules for others will changed as about 4,000 civilian employees start furloughs Monday.

Most employees must take 11 days of furloughs, one day per week, through Sept. 30. The reduced hours are expected to save $8 million at Fort Benning and $1.8 billion throughout the Army. Teachers are scheduled to take five days of furloughs, beginning sometime in August and early September.

Gary Jones, director of public affairs for the Maneuver Center of Excellence, said one of the most visible impacts will be at the post commissary, which will be closed every Monday. The closure will impact 170 commissary employees.

"We have been preparing for it for several months, and I don't think anybody is happy about it," Jones said of all the cuts. "We understand why it is necessary, and we are ready to execute it."

The cuts will be tough for many employees especially those in single-parent households, said Ozia Scott, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 54, the union representing most workers.

"As you can tell, all these agencies are going to be cut, and the work is going to pile up," Scott said. "They expect us to do the work, but they have furloughed us."

Scott, a police officer and retired Army sergeant, is among the furloughed workers. Cuts also will impact nurses, medical offices and clinics.

"There are going to be people out there who are single parents that can't make their bills," he said. "There will be people out that can't make their rent payments."

Losing 16 hours in salary for every bi-weekly pay period, furloughs are expected to cost workers $400 to $700 a month.

Jones said he didn't know how many employees may be on furloughs on a given day.

"The majority of our workers probably will be taking a Friday or Monday, but we also got individual offices whose missions have to function so they were given the ability to plan their own schedules," he said.

At the post check points, visitors may see more military personnel at the entry gates instead of Department of Defense police officers, who are civilians.

At Martin Army Community Hospital, the pharmacies, clinics and support services will operate under new hours.

On Saturday, sick call for troops will operate next to Martin Army Emergency Department from 7-9 a.m.

No sick call will be available at Winder Medical Clinic.

The pharmacy at the main hospital will be closed on Saturdays, while refill services at the post exchange will remain the same.

Scott said employees should contact their representatives in Congress to make sure employees don't face furloughs next year.

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