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Fort Drum union VP hopes more furlough days can be reduced

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FORT DRUM — With a reduction of the number of furlough days across the military likely, the vice president of the post’s civilian employee union said he hoped more unpaid leave days could be dropped.

“It’s a start,” said Loren J. Zeilnhofer of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 400. “Naturally, we’d like to see the whole thing go away.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that new spending legislation approved earlier this week allowed the military to reduce the number of furlough days from 22 to 14.

Furlough notices were initially expected last week but were postponed for two weeks. Were the initial timetable to remain, furloughs would not begin until early May at the earliest.

However, a Department of Defense statement released Thursday specified the notices may not be issued until early May, pushing the furloughs back to mid- to late June. A final decision about furloughs has not been made.

With a “moving target” on furloughs, Mr. Zeilnhofer said it has been tough to plan for their impact.

“It’s still going to hurt people, but likely not as badly,” he said.

Mr. Zeilnhofer said 14 furlough days may mean one unpaid day per two weeks from the start of furloughs until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

“Still, the more you compress it, the more difficult it becomes to fit it in,” he said. “It’s really time for decisions to be made ... let’s move on.”

If the eight-day reduction were made, having 14 furlough days would represent a loss of about 5 percent of the 260-day work year.

Mr. Zeilnhofer said frustrations about the furlough process did not represent a problem with post leadership, and the parties were trying to “deal with this lemon the best way we can.”

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