Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013, 4:47 pm

Sequestration would bring furloughs for Arsenal's civilian staff

Comment on this story

By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

Civilian workers at the Rock Island Arsenal will be forced to take 22 unpaid days off this year if Congress does not find a way to avert automatic spending cuts before the March 1 deadline.

The furlough days would start in April after a 30-day notice has been given to the unions, said Randy Donnelly, vice president of Local 2119 of the American Federation of Government Employees at the Arsenal.

Already, 200 early retirement packages have been offered at the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, although it's still not known how many of the slots have been taken.

The contractor workforce at the Arsenal has been cut by 56 percent over the past year as a result of the drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Arsenal spokesman Rhys Fullerlove.

Cutbacks at the Arsenal, the largest employer in the Quad Cities, will impact the wider local economy, Mr. Donnelly said. The unpaid time off -- known as furloughs -- would equal a 20 percent pay cut between April and September for civilian workers at the Arsenal.

An estimated 800,000 civilian workers across the country will be asked to take off unpaid days if the March 1 budget reduction is implemented.The automatic cutbacks, called "sequestration." would take $46 billion out of the Pentagon's $642 billion budget this year.

Negotiations to avoid the budget cutbacks are ongoing.U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, have both been vocal in their opposition to the automatic cutbacks and the impact they could have on the local economy.

But so far lawmakers have been unable to reach a compromise to avert sequestration.

However, if the March 1 deadline passes without a deal, the cutbacks could still be reversed later. Mr. Donnelly predicted the deadline would pass without agreement but lawmakers will be provoked into action once the impact on jobs becomes tangible.