Furloughed Pearl Harbor Shipyard workers returning to work Monday
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Most of the civilian employees of the Department of Defense may be back at work Monday after a surprise announcement from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The employees include nearly 3,000 Pearl Harbor Shipyard workers who were furloughed by the partial shutdown of the federal government.
"As a result of the Secretary of Defense's decision today, and in accordance with guidance received, the shipyard is returning to normal operations as of the first shift Monday, 7 Oct 2013," said shipyard public affairs director Jensin Sommer. "All shipyard employees shall report to their normal worksites on their regularly scheduled shift on Monday."
According to Sommer, the first shift begins at 6:30 a.m.
"It's a relief for the shipyard workers especially, and for whatever agencies are coming in on Monday," said Jamie Hiranaka, president of the International Federal of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 121, and vice president of the Hawaii Federal Employees Metal Trades Council, which represent the workers. "It's a big relief for all of them."
In a statement issued Saturday morning, Hagel said the Pay Our Military Act, which was signed into law by President Obama before the shutdown, allows the Pentagon to eliminate furloughs for "employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members."
Hagel said that the law does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians working for the Defense Department. He directed military departments to "move expeditiously to identify all employees whose activities fall under these categories. I expect us to be able to significantly reduce -- but not eliminate -- civilian furloughs under this process."
Hagel also said employees can expect to hear more information from their managers this weekend.
In a statement, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-First District) said, "since the shutdown, I have been in constant contact with military officials about how these furloughs are impacting Hawaii and our local workforce, and it is my understanding from these conversations that most DoD civilian employees will be back to work by Monday and paid on time."
Meantime, the House unanimously passed the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which will pay furloughed employees when the shutdown ends.
"We've got over 25,000 federal employees (in Hawaii) who didn't know if they would be paid during this period where they were told 'do not come to work. You are not allowed to rep rot to work.' So this is a step in the right direction," said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Second District).
The measure now goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve it. The Obama Administration has already announced its support for the bill.
"This is a huge relief for the federal workers because we've already suffered through pay freezes, furloughs, reductions in force. This shutdown just added to it. So by saying that we get the retro pay and we get to be recalled in, it's a huge relief for all the government workers," said Hiranaka.
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