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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Furloughed MacDill civilians returning to work Monday

More than 1,500 civilians at MacDill Air Force Base who were forced to take unpaid days off after the government shutdown on Tuesday will begin reporting back to work Monday.

“All the workers are coming back,” said Capt. Sara Greco, a spokeswoman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the base host unit. “We got the guidance earlier (Sunday) afternoon.”

Officials at the base and its commands, including U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, have been notifying the civilians about the recall. The workers have been losing a combined $400,000 in pay daily.

Details such as whether the civilians will be paid for the time they spent on furlough and when they will be paid if the shutdown continues still have to be worked out, Greco said.

Also unclear is the status of unfunded contracts that were put on hold when the government shut down.

There could be more than $100 million in pending government contracts for services such as operational support, intelligence support and the general support of the base, said Rich McClain, executive director of Tampa Bay Defense Alliance.

“Having those employees go back is fantastic for the Tampa Bay area,” McClain said. “It's still a concern that those dollars haven't flowed for the defense community.”

Greco said she expects to have more information about the contracts today.

The commissary has reopened and will have normal business hours from 6 a.m to 7 p.m. The commissary is scheduled to have a warehouse sale every Saturday and Sunday in October from 9 a.m to 5 p.m.

On Saturday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced he was ordering back to work most of the 350,000 civilians who had been forced to take unpaid days off. Hagel made the decision based on a legal interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act, a measure passed by Congress shortly after the shutdown began Tuesday, officials said. Lawyers concluded the law permits recall of workers “whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn called the return of furloughed employees a positive step for the community and those who work at MacDill.

“These are our friends and neighbors who proudly serve our country's military and deserve better than to be used as pawns by some elected officials in Washington who would rather score political points than solve problems,” Buckhorn said.

Gregory Celestan, chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said his group worked hard to ensure those who were facing unpaid days off would have some type of support. The chamber reached out to vendors to provide job leads, discounts and loans to help offset missing paychecks.

“We've been working pretty hard the past week to help all of the folks who were furloughed,” said Celestan , CEO of Celestar Corp. “That's another reason why I'm very happy. The sooner people who are affected get back to work, the better for the community.”

Col. Douglas Schwartz, commanding officer of the 927th Air Refueling Wing, told The Tribune on Friday the furlough brought wing operations, including flying and training, to a halt.

Schwartz said almost 155 civilian had been furloughed from his wing.

“The 927th is back to work tomorrow!,” Schwartz wrote in an email to The Tribune on Sunday.

Those furloughed would report back to work “for their normal shifts,” he said.


Tribune reporter Eddie Daniels contributed to this report.

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