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Arsenal furlough days cut from 11 to 6

Nearly 6,000 Arsenal employees breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday, August 6, 2013,  after learning next week’s unpaid furlough day will be their last.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Department of Defense was able to move some funds from acquisition accounts into day-to-day operating accounts. As a result of this reprogramming and other reduced costs, furlough days will be cut from 11 to six.

“Everybody’s thinking it’s pretty good news. Obviously, six days is way better than 11,” said AFGE Local 15 President Steve Beck.

Over those six furlough days, Arsenal employees will have lost between $8 million and $10 million in wages. They will have also lost nearly 250,000 work hours on the island.

But while Tuesday’s announcement offered short-term good news, Arsenal workers fear more cuts are coming when a new fiscal year begins in October.

“Next year they’re looking at $52 billion in cuts, so it’s about 40 percent larger than this year’s,” said Beck, explaining, “Rather than furloughs, they want to do something called a ‘reduction in force,’ which is eliminating jobs permanently.”

It’s why Beck calls the past year a “roller coaster of emotions” for Arsenal employees.

“We’ve been through 3 years of pay freezes, we don’t have any performance awards anymore, so there’s no incentives really for people to do well. Our employees are just kind of feeling beat down,” said Beck.

The Department of Defense deemed the furlough days necessary to make the $37 billion in spending cuts mandated by sequestration.