As the guest speaker Tuesday at a meeting of the local chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, Col. Brent Bolander, commander of the depot, said the facility’s 371 temporary employees could be laid off in March. It depends on whether Congress can reach a deal to avoid massive cuts in military spending, generally referred to as sequestration, which are scheduled to start March 1.
“It’s a high probability that with our temporary workers’ contracts coming up, it’s likely their contracts will be released,” Bolander said. “We’ve got some challenges ahead and the real issue at the end of the day is how we work things out.”
Laying off all temporary workers was one of the top guidelines the Army laid out for bases and depots to curb spending in the face of the impending budget cuts. Sequestration is scheduled to cut 9.4 percent from the defense budget and 8.2 percent from domestic programs.
“What bothers me is they’ve been loyal to their country,” Bolander said of the temporary workers. “Some of these folks have been on for five, six and seven years.”
The AFGE Local 1945, the local union that represents the depot workers, has been adamantly opposed to the sequestration and the layoffs. After a union meeting last week, members gathered 1,500 signed petitions against sequestration. Shrene Funderburg, president of AFGE Local 1945, on Tuesday handed the petitions to U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks in Washington, D.C.
“He said he’s going to try his best to stay out of sequestration and support a budget he can get behind,” Funderburg said.
In a Tuesday email to The Star, Shea Snider, spokeswoman for Rogers, wrote that the congressman will continue to do what he can to help depot workers.
"Through the years, Congressman Rogers has worked tirelessly with the community to help protect and strengthen the Anniston Army Depot and is continuing to fight for every job and chance at additional depot workload as our nation evolves its national defense strategy,” Snider wrote.
Funderburg said the union has been lobbying hard in Washington and plans to meet with Sen. Richard Shelby and Sen. Jeff Sessions today.
“We had a big lobby rally Monday,” she said.
Another guideline suggested furloughs for permanent employees might be necessary. However, such a move is currently not under consideration at the depot, Bolander said.
“The option of furloughs is the last option senior leaders are looking to do,” Bolander said. “We’ve not been asked to take that into account right now.”
Also during his presentation, Bolander showed the depot’s budget for 2013 and 2014, which shows a decrease in work hours and funding whether sequestration happens or not. The decrease is due to the drawdown of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“This was planned before sequestration … anything could change after March 1,” Bolander said.
The current 2014 budget calls for $628 million and about 2.2 million direct labor hours — a significant decrease from the $846 million 2013 budget that includes around 3.4 million labor hours. For the last several years, the depot has averaged around 3.4 million direct labor hours to maintain its minimum core workload requirements.
Bolander said the depot will be able to meet its core requirements with 2.2 million work hours in 2014.
“As we come out of the theater of war, those requirements have come down,” Bolander said.
After the meeting, Clester Burdell, spokeswoman for the depot, said the decrease in work hours might not result in additional layoffs. Though the number of work hours determines the workforce at the depot, Burdell said decreases in work hours are usually counteracted with attrition, not layoffs.
“Each year through attrition, it kind of takes care of itself,” Burdell said. “It may take care of things again, but we’re not sure because we don’t know all the numbers of people in attrition that we’ll be working with in 2014.”
The Anniston Army Depot employs 5,400 people and repairs and refurbishes military combat vehicles and small arms weapons.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
Editor's note: This story has been modified from the version originally published to reflect that Col. Brent Bolander did not specifically mention Congress' role in potentially preventing the spending cuts known as sequestration, and to include comments from AFGE Local 1945 President Shrene Funerburg and from Shea Snider, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers.