Job bombshell hits hardFederal workers at David Taylor...

Newswatch ... on federal workers

April 17, 1991|By Stacey Evers | Stacey Evers,States News Service

Job bombshell hits hard

Federal workers at David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak are still reeling from Friday's news that hundreds of jobs are slated to be taken from their facilities as part of Defense Department cutbacks.

Both centers held "state of the center" meetings Monday to give employees the official word.

"It's hitting pretty hard," said Jim Scott, spokesman for the Taylor Center. "It [morale] was kind of gloomy and somber."

"People are really stunned right now," said Diane Palermo, spokeswoman for the warfare center. "They're not sure what it means to them personally. Everyone's sort of wandering around, but not going out selling their houses yet."

Defense Secretary Richard Cheney recommended Friday that the Annapolis site lose about 360 jobs to its sister laboratory in Carderock and about 100 posts to a Navy ship engineering center in Philadelphia.

About 340 jobs are proposed to remain at the Taylor Center, which now employs 1,000 people. The word isn't out yet on which posts will stay and which will go, but the Navy is expected to have more details by early next week, Scott said.

Support personnel, such as public works employees and contractors, took the news the hardest because they are supposed to be affected the most, he said.

With a smaller military, it's likely there will be fewer jobs in these areas and existing jobs at other sites probably would be too costly to move to, he said.

The White Oak detachment, which now has 1,800 employees, is scheduled to lose 1,200 positions, Palermo said. At least 900 of those are proposed to be transferred to the surface warfare center headquarters in Dahlgren, Va.

Between 500 and 600 employees will be kept at the White Oak site, Palermo said.

Details on which jobs will be transferred will "shake out in the next few months," she said.

Officials at both sites are handling the announcement as if it is fact, although Cheney's recommendations need the approval of an eight-member base-closure commission, President Bush and Congress.

"We are planning for it as if it were a reality, so if it does happen, we won't be sitting there, twiddling our thumbs," Palermo said. "Obviously, we're planning some things in the dark."

A team of people from the Dahlgren and White Oak facilities was formed yesterday to discuss relocation issues. The panel plans to recommend to the Naval Sea Systems Command in Crystal City, Va., as the best ways to consolidate the sites, Palermo said.

Jobs could be phased out as early as October and as late as October 1995.

John Sturdivant, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, on Friday called on Congress to establish various programs, such as retraining and priority placement systems, that would ease the blow for workers losing their jobs.

AFGE will work closely with legislators to make sure "there is a solid support system of communications and assistance" for affected union members, Sturdivant said. Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, D-N.Y., yesterday introduced legislation to improve the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

"As it's currently structured, the FEHBP does not -- and cannot -- provide all enrollees with comprehensive benefits at an affordable rate," Ackerman said. "This is unacceptable because the federal government should be a model employer and truly be a beacon for the rest of the American work force."

FEHBP, established in 1960, is now a $13 billion program that covers at least 10 million federal workers, retirees and their dependents.

The proposal by Ackerman, the chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Service Subcommittee on Compensation and Employee Benefits, would replace the current 19 fee-for-service options with a single two-option plan that would be managed by the Office of Personnel Management.

Initially, the Standard Option premium would be set at $10 per pay period for self-only coverage and $22 for family coverage. The High Option benefits would be $20 per pay period for self-only coverage and $44 for family coverage.

Federal employees could continue to enroll in health maintenance organizations as an alternative to the fee-for-service options. Under the proposal, HMOs would be required to offer the same health services as provided under the Standard Option.

More on pay caps:

David Schlein, AFGE's vice president of the Washington region, was to testify today before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government.

Schlein was expected to urge Congress to remove pay caps on the Federal Wage System and to give full funding to agencies so they can cover the pay raise for white-collar workers, which is to be implemented in fiscal year 1992.

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