Most CERL workers face furlough day each week for quarter

Most CERL workers face furlough day each week for quarter

CHAMPAIGN — About 230 of the 270 employees at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign are taking 11 furlough days this quarter as a result of the federal sequester.

The furloughs began July 8 and will continue through Sept. 30, the end of the federal budget year.

That amounts to one furlough day each week — excluding the week of Labor Day — for the affected employees.

CERL employees won't be paid for the 11 furlough days, effectively reducing their pay this quarter by 20 percent.

About 40 employees of the lab — part of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center — are exempt from the furloughs. Exemptions were granted to:

— Employees in civil works positions.

— Those whose jobs are paid for through the National Intelligence Program.

— Those who are deployed in temporary duty or temporary change-of-station in a combat zone.

Automatic budget cuts began March 1, as a result of a 2011 law that said if Congress couldn't agree on a $4 billion deficit-reduction package, $1 billion in budget cuts would take effect this year.

Federal agencies such as the Department of Defense were given flexibility to reduce budgets and determine the number of furlough days for employees. In May, the department announced it was trimming the number of furlough days for employees to 11 — half of the 22 originally forecast.

Under the furlough policy set for the Engineer Research and Development Center, employees are to be furloughed for 16 hours each two-week pay period, not to exceed 88 hours over the quarter.

The furloughs are to be spread out over the three months, keeping in mind the center's mission requirements. Only full-time employees are affected, not contract employees.

The Engineer Research and Development Center does research and development for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The center has seven labs in four states.

In addition to the lab in Champaign, the center operates:

— The Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in Hanover, N.H.

— The Topographic Engineering Center in Alexandria, Va.

— Four labs in Vicksburg, Miss., including the Coastal and Hydraulics Lab, the Geotechnical and Structures Lab, the Environmental Lab and the Information Technology Lab.

"All ERDC laboratories remain open five days a week to handle mission requirements," said Deborah Quimby, the Vicksburg-based public affairs officer for the Engineer Research and Development Center.

None has reduced hours of operation, she added.

The Coastal and Hydraulics Lab in Vicksburg, Miss., is less affected by furloughs than other ERDC labs, Quimby said, because it has a larger number of positions funded by civil works dollars.

By state, here's how Engineer Research and Development Center employment breaks down by funding:

— Mississippi: 600 positions military-funded, 502 civil works-funded.

— Illinois: 223 military-funded, 40 civil works-funded.

— New Hampshire: 130 military-funded, 87 civil works-funded.

— Virginia: 104 military-funded, seven civil works-funded.

A fact sheet prepared by the center said that in Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia, about 725 employees have been furloughed and about 585 employees were deemed exempt.

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