Most Robins employees back to work, uncertainty lingers

jmink@macon.comOctober 7, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- While furloughed Air Force workers were called back to work Monday, for records manager Jeanette McElhaney, it was far from a happy occasion.

“We have been called back now, but it’s still not over,” said McElhaney, treasurer of the Robins Air Force Base union Local 987. “We’re not sure what’s going to be happening.”

By Monday evening, the number of workers who returned was not available, but those who have returned will get paid when a budget or continuing resolution has been approved, according to Robins spokesman David Donato. About 4,000 civilian workers were furloughed.

“Most Robins employees who were furloughed have returned or are in the process of returning to work,” he said in a statement. “Base officials are still determining the exact number of workers involved.”

Even though they are back to work, uncertainty lingers for employees. The local union is staging a rally Thursday at the Warner Robins office of U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., in an effort to both educate workers about their rights and show government officials that employees are fed up, McElhaney said.

“It’s very discouraging, and it’s stressful,” she said about the government shutdown. “We have been loyal to the government, but Congress is not getting their act together.”

Workers are being recalled due to the Department of Defense’s interpretation of the new Pay Our Military Act, which makes sure military members will not have their pay delayed. It also includes language that prevents civilians who provide military support from being furloughed, according to reports.

Scott issued a statement Monday, saying he voted for the Pay Our Military Act and “will continue to scrutinize the Department of Defense’s revised implementation” of the act.

The Department of Defense “must adhere to the intent of the law Congress passed, which is to ensure all defense workers are able to do their jobs,” Scott said in a news release. “After a week of unnecessary turmoil for the workers at Robins and Moody, it is important that the Department swiftly implement the revised policy to ensure all workers may return to work without further delay.”

At Robins Air Force Base, worker morale “is not the best,” McElhaney said.

Hans Hinners, a civilian engineer at Robins, told Georgia Public Broadcasting that he is relieved to be back at work. But tens of thousands of defense employees across the nation are still furloughed, Hinners said.

“It sure beats spending four days at home with nothing to do but worry about paying bills and when we’re going to get paid next,” he said. “It certainly has not been a vacation for us.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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