New England News
5:15 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Furloughs End For Civilian Employees Of U.S. Military

On the seventh day of the federal government shutdown, thousands of civilian employees returned to work Monday at a half dozen military bases in Massachusetts.

A C-5 on the flight line at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, MA.
A C-5 on the flight line at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, MA.
Credit US Air Force

       The 270 civilian employees at Westover Air Reserve base in Chicopee went to work Monday as a result of a decision by the Secretary of Defense. Lt. Col. James Bishop, the chief public affairs officer at the base, said the civilians were notified over the weekend to come back to work.

       Civilian employees including technicians at Westover received furlough notices after reporting to work on October 1st—the first day of the federal government shutdown.  Most were sent home that morning. Operations at Westover, the largest Air Force Reserve base in the country, pretty much came to a halt.

       Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel cited a legal interpretation of the Pay our Military Act that concluded the Pentagon could eliminate furloughs for “employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”

       A core group of workers at Westover—Air Force reservists—have not yet been ordered to return to duty according to Lt. Col. Bishop.

       Regularly scheduled training for reservists at the base was postponed last weekend. 

       It is unknown if the federal employees will receive back pay for the forced time off. Civilian employees at Westover also had to take six days off without pay over the summer as a result of the across- the- board federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

Andrew Biscoe is one of the base employees who had to take time off without pay last summer and again last week.

       A spokesperson at Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield said civilian employees would report to work Tuesday.

       There are 7,000 civilian workers at a half-dozen military installations in Massachusetts.

       Another impact from the federal government shutdown is that tuition assistance payments are not being made for military personnel enrolled in college classes.

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