In a press release Wednesday, depot officials announced projected workload changes for the next fiscal year will mean 386 temporary employees will keep their jobs through March. Those workers’ contracts had been scheduled to expire in September.
“Our production numbers for fiscal year 2013 look promising,” depot commander Col. Timothy Sullivan said in the press release. “The nature of this business forces us to remain flexible in order to meet mission requirements. We are hopeful that this tempo remains steady, which provides the possibility of further extensions.”
When faced with budget cuts and the drawdown from the Iraq War, depot officials announced in January that 562 temporary employees’ jobs would end once their contracts expired. Temporary workers are hired for short-term periods based on the Army’s needs.
To date, 176 of those workers have been released as their contracts ended, they voluntarily resigned, or through veterans in temporary jobs moving to vacant permanent positions. Additionally, 320 permanent employees opted to retire under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment program.
There are currently more than 3,000 civilian workers at the depot.
“We’re happy that efforts we made to find more workloads are working,” said Shrene Funderburg, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1945, the union that represents the depot workers. “We’re happy workers’ contracts are extended another year and we hope they become permanent.”
Shea Snider, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, said the congressman was glad that more work was coming to the depot. Rogers is on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security.
“Congressman Rogers is pleased to see this new work and is glad the depot will be able to retain more of these jobs, at least for now,” Snider wrote in a Wednesday email to The Star. “Securing workload and protecting the depot is an ongoing fight and one the community, the chamber, AFGE Local 1945 and Alabama’s Federal delegation are working together on to accomplish.”
The latest workload increase is not related to an announcement last week that the depot might receive work from the Kingdom of Morocco to refurbish M1A1 Tanks.
“We do work through foreign military sales all the time,” said Clester Burdell, public affairs officer for the depot. “But the Morocco deal is still dialogue going on and there has been no confirmation of increased funding.”
Congress has until July 17 to pass a resolution to deny the deal with Morocco.
Sherri Sumners, president of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and overseer of Operation: 1ST Rate, which helps displaced depot workers find new jobs, said the announcement was great news but it would not slow down her work.
“It’s certainly good for those workers and for the depot … but we’re still looking forward at those eventual releases,” Sumners said. “That’s why we’re still working hard to find new jobs with Operation 1ST Rate.”
To date, the program has helped more than 30 depot workers find new jobs. Sumners said she will soon know whether the federally-funded program’s grant will be extended for another year.
“The grant review committee spent today on the grant request,” Sumners said. “We will not know all of the details until we get their report, but the general indication is that it was favorable. We will have to amend some of it and change a few items, but it looks good.”
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star