Government shutdown leaves JBLM employees in dark on pay

Staff writerOctober 2, 2013 

Most civilian employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are going to work this week despite the federal government shutdown. They just don’t know when they’ll be paid.

Base spokesman Joe Piek estimated Wednesday that forced furloughs are hitting about 8,000 Lewis-McChord civilian employees. About 50 to 55 percent of them are still going to work, he said. The others are staying home until the shutdown ends.

Those who continue to work include medical personnel, employees who directly support military training, and public safety employees such as firefighters and police. At the base’s hospital, Madigan Army Medical Center, 80 percent of civilian employees are going to work, said spokesman Jay Ebbeson. They do not know if they’ll be paid on schedule. Madigan has about 3,300 civilian workers.

“We’re here because of the need, and so we’re serving,” Ebbeson said.

Lewis-McChord’s nonmilitary workforce totals about 16,000 contractors and civilian employees. About half of them are losing pay for now, Piek said.

Furloughed workers generally anticipate that they will receive retroactive pay once the crisis ends, as they did following the 1995 government shutdown. But it will take an act of Congress to restore their salaries.

Piek said supervisors stressed to employees: “There is no guarantee you will get retroactive pay.”

Military service members and some Defense Department civilians will receive pay on time this month because of a resolution President Barack Obama signed earlier this week called the Pay Our Military Act.

Some lawmakers are urging Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to use that law to bring more Defense Department civilians back to work.

“I strongly encourage you to use the authority Congress has given you to keep national security running, rather than keeping defense civilians at home when they are authorized to work,” Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., wrote to Hagel on Tuesday.

Madigan commander Col. Ramona Fiorey held a town hall for the hospital’s civilian employees Tuesday night. She fielded questions for about an hour, Ebbeson said.

“We’re all anxious,” he said.

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