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Union chief tells Fort Drum civilian employees to plan for furloughs

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FORT DRUM — The head of the post’s union is telling civilian employees to plan for looming furloughs despite hope the number of unpaid days will be reduced.

“The best guidance I can give is to plan as if they’re going to get furloughed,” said Jeffrey W. Zuhlke, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 400.

“Don’t let that tax return burn a hole in your pocket. Prepare now, because it is right around the corner,” he said.

Furlough notices originally had been expected last week but they were delayed two weeks by the Department of Defense.

Mr. Zuhlke on Monday said he anticipates furlough notices now will go out around April 5.

With federal rules requiring 30 days’ notice before implementing furloughs, the earliest the furloughs will take place is in early May.

With no changes announced for the number of unpaid days employees will face, there will be less time to fit the 22 furlough days into the schedule before Sept. 30, the federal fiscal year’s end.

With 260 work days per year, the current furlough count would equal an 8.5 percent loss in work days.

Mr. Zuhlke said for the weeks with furlough days, employees could see their paycheck reduced by about 25 to 30 percent, including benefits.

He said he hopes, with new defense spending added last week, the number of furlough days could be pushed down to 18 to 20 days.

The delay in releasing the notices was announced Thursday in a statement from Pentagon press secretary George Little.

“We believe the delay is a responsible step to take in order to assure our civilian employees that we do not take lightly the prospect of furloughs and the resulting decrease in employee pay,” the statement read.

As the furlough start looms, the secretary of defense issued guidance allowing an exemption to the furloughs for nonappropriated fund employees such as those in child care. The prospect of closed facilities and limited openings led many families to voice complaints to post leadership.

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