By Adam Ashton / The News Tribune
Thousands of civilian employees at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will take unpaid days off on 11 straight Fridays in July, August and September – part of a plan intended to concentrate the impacts of Pentagon-mandated furloughs to a single day of the week.
Some details of the four-day work week are still being ironed out, but the proposal would give about 10,000 workers a reliable schedule to plan their furloughs.
A panel of Lewis-McChord Army and Air Force commanders announced the plan Monday and said the furloughs are scheduled to start taking place the week of July 8. They will hit firefighters, mechanics, doctors and many other workers who operate the city-like services at the base south of Tacoma.
About 25,000 people live on Lewis-McChord either in barracks or in base housing. About 63,000 work there in uniform or as civilians, making it Pierce County’s largest employer.
Some of the ways furloughs likely will disrupt the base this summer include:
- Madigan will keep its emergency room open around the clock, but it will close its operating room, pharmacy and family medical clinics one day a week. Some patients could be pushed outside the hospital for care. Madigan’s behavioral-health employees will receive furlough exemptions, as will employees who work with wounded, injured and ill service members.
- Two or more of the base’s six fire stations could be closed any day of the week unless firefighters receive an exemption, firefighter union President Scott Powers said.
- Experienced civilian mechanics will miss work supervising maintenance of complex military equipment, such as the fleet of C-17 Globemaster IIIs at McChord Air Field. “Our readiness almost certainly will decline over time,” said 62nd Airlift Wing Vice Commander Col. Jeff Philippart.
- Commissaries will be closed every Monday from July 8 through the end of September.
On a positive note, military families at Lewis-McChord will get one break that’s not being offered at other bases around the country.
Schools will not be affected by the furloughs because they’re managed by Clover Park School District. Elsewhere, schools on military bases are closing for five days this fall.
Also, Lewis-McChord’s child daycare centers will remain open on their regular schedules, Hodges said.
Puget Sound lawmakers have vowed to repeal the forced sequestration cuts for months, but they have not been successful.