Depot workers exempt from government shutdown
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Sep 24, 2013 | 6831 views |  0 comments | 68 68 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Workers file out of the Anniston Army Depot in their vehicles at the end of their shift  in this file photo. Photo by Trent Penny.
Workers file out of the Anniston Army Depot in their vehicles at the end of their shift in this file photo. Photo by Trent Penny.
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Anniston Army Depot workers will remain on the job, even if the federal government shuts down next month.

The federal government could shut down Oct. 1 if Congress does not pass a 2014 budget by then. A shutdown would mean cutting funding to various federal programs and services, including the military. However, depot officials say the facility already has enough allocated money to last it through 2014, preventing workers there from being sent home without pay.

A bitterly divided Congress is fighting over whether to fund key components of the 2010 Affordable Care Act health care reform law, which begin in January. Republicans want to pass a 2014 budget, but only without funding to implement the Affordable Care Act, which they argue is too expensive. Democrats, however, refuse to cut any funding to the health care reform law.

If no budget is approved by Oct. 1, the government will shut down.

According to a Sept. 23 Department of Defense memo, military personnel will continue in a normal duty status if the government shuts down, although a large number of the department's civilian employees would be temporarily furloughed.

However, Anniston Army Depot workers would be exempt from such furloughs, depot spokeswoman Clester Burdell said Tuesday. Burdell said all of the depot's nearly 3,000 workers are paid through the Army's working capital fund, which has money already allocated through 2014.

"So if there was a furlough, we would be exempt because we have cash reserves," Burdell said. "There aren't any employees who wouldn't have an exemption."

The depot workers repair, modify or upgrade combat vehicles and small arms for the military.

The exemption is likely to come as a relief to depot workers, who were furloughed six days earlier this year due to federal budget cuts known as sequestration. The depot also had to lay off 371 workers in March due to other budget cuts brought about by the drawdown of the Afghanistan war.

Shrene Funderberg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1945, which represents depot workers, said the union is still concerned of how a government shutdown might affect the depot.

"The national union office wants us to do a lot of calling up to D.C. to let them know we have no room for a government shutdown," Funderberg said. "It seems like they are willing to play their games with this government shutdown like they have with sequestration."

Funderberg said any furloughs at the depot would mean not just lighter paychecks for workers there, but also less equipment for soldiers out in the field.

"That's the biggest thing," she said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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