FORT DRUM Civilian Department of Defense workers will begin a cycle of unpaid furlough days Monday, a reduction that will affect all aspects of Fort Drums operation for the next 11 weeks, from medical staffing to scheduled hours for soldier and family services.
About 1,800 workers will be affected. Many will have their furlough time set for one day a week, mostly Fridays, until the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.
Its going to be a real interesting 11 weeks, said Jeffrey W. Zuhlke, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 400, which operates on post.
The first sign of the furloughs will be reduced civilian staff at medical facilities on Monday. The medical command split up workers time off to enable clinics to stay open five days a week, with limited capacity on Mondays and Fridays.
The posts law enforcement and fire and emergency workers will also face furloughs.
The post commissary, normally closed Mondays, also will close on Tuesdays.
Employees on furlough will lose 20 percent of their income in weeks with unpaid leave, and the 11-day total represents about 4 percent of the 260 workdays in a calendar year.
Child-care workers, whose pay comes primarily from non-appropriated sources, also will avoid the furloughs.
The posts soldiers are in the middle of a two-week block leave period. Mr. Zuhlke said the timing would allow for offices to work some of the kinks out of the change in staffing, and possibly reassign workers to meet demand.
The bigger challenge, Mr. Zuhlke said, will be when the post returns to full numbers within the next week.
Theres going to be things that fall through the cracks, but were going to work our best to make sure those things are kept to a minimum, Mr. Zuhlke said.
Also a concern is maintaining staffing for Army training and airfield operations that take place on Fridays.
If we get word that a flight is coming in from overseas, we cant tell them to go somewhere else, Mr. Zuhlke said. Were going to have to adjust on the fly to most of this.
The unpaid leave time means that some employees may need to find additional work. Temporary employment agencies have distributed materials on post, and the posts Employment Readiness Program also is helping employees find additional work. The post also passed along information about financial relief programs that may be available to employees.
In May, Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, garrison commander, said the goal for the post was to keep workers informed about their options during the furlough period.
If we know whats happening, we can plan around it, Col. Rosenberg said.
Mr. Zuhlke said he remains hopeful that as the furloughs and other cost-reducing measures go into effect, the military will find enough funds to end the furloughs in six to eight weeks.
In the meantime, he said, he has taken on a second job in addition to the insurance-fraud analysis he does in the region: He will work as a bouncer at a bar near his home in Central Square.
A slideshow created by the post in May to outline the effects of furloughs can be found at http://wdt.me/YF234P.
NOTE: This story has been amended to correctly list the furloughs of the posts civilian emergency and law enforcement staff.