Posted Online: July 05, 2013, 9:59 pm

Sequester bites for Arsenal workers

Comment on this story

By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

ROCK ISLAND -- Thousands of Department of Defense workers at the Rock Island Arsenal will start taking unpaid days off on Monday as sequestration takes an estimated $18 million bite from their pay.

The 6,000 workers to be affected here will lose an average of $3,000 each as they take 11 furlough days over the next three months, according to a statement from Local 15 of the American Federation of Government Employees.

"These furloughs are unprecedented," AFGE Local 15 President Steve Beck said in a statement. "DoD employees have never been told to stand down while a war is being fought."

The across-the-board spending reductions known as sequestration were triggered when Congress failed to agree on a deficit reduction program.

The furloughs come on top of a three-year wage freeze for the Arsenal's civilian workforce, Mr. Beck said.

An estimated 500,000 work hours will be lost across the different commands at the Arsenal as a result of the sequester, according to the AFGE. The Arsenal is the biggest employer in the Quad- Cities.

Nationwide, about 680,000 DoD employees will take unpaid days off because of sequestration as part of an overall $37 billion in cutbacks across the defense budget this year.

The Pentagon originally had planned 22 furlough days, but the number was later cut to 11 days under pressure from Congress.

Congress approved legislation to give the Pentagon authority to move some funds around in an effort to avoid furloughs.Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, said she was "deeply disappointed" that furloughs were going ahead despite the effort by lawmakers.

"I've been against the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration from the very beginning because of the negative impact they could have on the jobs and economy of our region," she said in a recent statement.

Separately at the Arsenal, the workforce is being trimmed through buyouts.

At the Joint Munitions and Technology Center, 200 buyouts were offered and 98 people accepted the early retirement incentive by the deadline, according to JMTC spokesman Rhys Fullerlove.

Mr. Beck said "in excess of 300 jobs have already been eliminated"at the Arsenal since the start of the fiscal year. The number could not be verified with officials at the Arsenal on Friday.