Fort Bragg workers voice frustration over furloughs
Posted June 3, 2013
Fayetteville, N.C. — Hoping to answer questions and offer support, leaders at Fort Bragg hosted two town-hall meetings Monday to talk to civilian workers who will be hit next month with unpaid furloughs.
The furloughs are part of federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, that were announced over the last few months. More than 1,400 civilian employees at the post, from firefighters to groundskeepers, will be forced to take 11 days off – one day a week for 11 weeks.
The furloughs will last from July 8 to Sept. 30, resulting in a 20-percent reduction in pay.
School teachers at Fort Bragg are mandated to take five unpaid days off.
“We want to get you through where we stand on furloughs,” Col. Jeffrey Sanborn, garrison commander, said to dozens of employees who came to the meeting at the Main Post Theater. “This is going to be a rough time for you. We’re here for you. We’re going to be part of your solution set.”
While many of the employees seem to have moved from disappointment to acceptance over the furloughs, there are plenty of questions.
Kurt Rhodes, lead firefighter for the Fort Bragg Fire Department, figures he'll lose well more than 20 percent of his pay because firefighters will not be allowed to earn overtime during the furlough.
“If it comes out of my built-in overtime, I’m going to lose 33 percent,” Rhodes said, adding that he’s concerned about staffing. “We’re not going to have the manpower that we usually have to respond.”
Most of the furloughed employees will have Fridays off. But Sanborn said emergency workers will have "rolling furloughs" to ensure required minimum staffing.
The fire department, for example, needs at least 52 people on the job at any given time.
For Rhodes, whose wife is also a firefighter at Bragg, the furloughs will cut extra deep.
“We’ll make it,” he said. “We’ll budget it out and make it through and move on.”
Still, there is frustration.
“We are the ones that (are) struggling,” employee Patrick Pickney said. “The United States are the people that (are) actually working hard and trying to make it through…don’t look like nobody’s losing money up there. That’s what’s frustrating to me.”
Mark Doorey, an industrial hygienist at the post, echoed the sentiment.
“I think the most frustrating part is it’s coming down from Congress, and they can’t reach any kind of consensus or agreement with the budget,” he said.
The impact of sequestration won’t end when the furloughs expire. Officials said they will eliminate 41 positions at the post in November.
A third town-hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.