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SRS contractors fear the worst as shutdown wears on

Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 8:42 PM
Last updated Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 2:44 AM
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Beyond the emergency furloughs, national park closures and ongoing negotiations between President Obama and Congress, the federal government shutdown has its human casualties.

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Engineer Chris Johnson, of North Augusta, is sitting at home without income, because he used his paid vacation to arrange his father's funeral in Indiana.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Engineer Chris Johnson, of North Augusta, is sitting at home without income, because he used his paid vacation to arrange his father's funeral in Indiana.

Chris Johnson and Gary Driesen, contract employees at the Savannah River Site’s remediation plant, are two of them.

“I am now sitting at home with no income,” said Johnson, 62, of North Augusta. Just a week before the federal government shut down, he used his remaining paid vacation time to arrange his late father’s funeral in Indiana.

Like Johnson, a large number of younger hires who work at the plant, which represents 30 percent of the SRS workforce, are in the same boat – forced to collect no pay during the shutdown because of a lack of paid leave.

There are some veteran personnel such as Driesen who are using their paid vacation to stay afloat.

But doing that might also come back to haunt them later. The Martinez resident says using his vacation time now will cut into a long-planned trip to Europe he and wife has scheduled.

Johnson said he learned of the shutdown furlough through a company e-mail while in Indiana. He said the U.S. Department of Energy notified him that he and 1,400 co-workers had been furloughed “until further notice” due to the budget impasse, and that they could either choose to receive no pay or exhaust their built-up vacation time for financial support while out of commission.

A 20-year engineer at Savannah River Remediation, the primary contractor responsible for safely processing and removing millions of gallons of radioactive waste from the local environment, Johnson said as the shutdown wears on, all employees are starting to plan to be away from work for up to a month and possibly without lost pay forever.

Although Savannah River Remediation is contracted through the federal government, managers have reportedly told their staffs that they may not be covered under a bill passed by the House of Representatives to retroactively pay all federal employees for lost salary.

“It is a slap in the face that my family has lost our income simply because Congress and the president are in a vendetta fight,” Johnson said.

Employees still receive health insurance coverage and, thankfully, Johnson said, his family has enough savings to get by for a few weeks. However, the North Augusta resident added that the lost income lessens the money his family has for future emergencies.

“We are the people impacted that don’t get any assistance or consideration,” he said.

Given the option of taking no pay or receiving compensation through accrued vacation, Driesen, 64, elected to dip into six weeks of paid leave he had accumulated, he said.

While the decision has provided a financial buffer, it is slowly affecting a trip he and his wife, Marilyn, have been planning to take to Italy next year.

While at home, Driesen said he has been running errands and working on odd jobs around the house, such as repairing his garage door opener, arranging to have his house exterior painted, and touring assisted living facilities in the area to benefit his mother-in-law.

“I guess it has given me a little bit of a taste of what retirement might be like,” he said.

Though Driesen said it can be frustrating reading about the lack of dialogue and cooperation going on between the different branches and government parties in the news, he has confidence President Obama and Congress will reopen the federal government.

“I know it’s complicated and certainly many people feel the U.S. has the best political structure in the world, but because of our freedoms, it can be frustratingly slow sometimes with the process that comes with our government,” Driesen said. “I just hope everything is resolved sooner rather than later.”

Comments (27) Add comment
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OJP
7738
Points
OJP 10/11/13 - 10:08 pm
5
7
The House GOP is to blame for this mess.

And recent polling shows that the American public agrees:

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/10/20903624-nbcwsj-poll-shutd...

Look for the House GOP to cry Uncle very soon, and then these workers can get back to work.

faithson
5525
Points
faithson 10/11/13 - 10:46 pm
5
2
vendetta fight,

brought on by WHO......................

OJP
7738
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OJP 10/11/13 - 11:54 pm
3
7
@faithson

By the Grand Old Party.

itsanotherday1
48303
Points
itsanotherday1 10/12/13 - 06:10 am
5
5
I might miss my trip to

I might miss my trip to Italy. Boo-Hoo.

justthefacts
25026
Points
justthefacts 10/12/13 - 06:25 am
5
2
Gosh

That was cold.

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 10/12/13 - 06:55 am
2
4
Did you read where one GOP

Did you read where one GOP representative had a tip on his Facebook page for furloughed workers? The tip was, "get a loan from your bank." My tip would be, "get a loan from your GOP senator or house member," and demand that the loan be interest free since they don't think this shutdown hurts regular people.

Even after polls, to include the WSJ, clearly show the impact of this shutdown on their party, on yesterday some were still preaching from the pulpit of "Shutdown Universal Congregation" taken from the unholy book of "Cruz."

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 10/12/13 - 07:03 am
1
1
I wish the gentleman well,

I wish the gentleman well, especially in making arrangements for his mother-in-law. Our family is seeing first hand the stress that this shutdown has on seniors especially when they have been responsible in saving and budgeting and then to have this question mark hanging over the nation's economy.

It reminds me of what a therapist once said about divorcing couples: Often the stress of seeing parents fight and fuss is more injurious to children's sense of security and well being than the actual divorce.

Likewise, it is the constant bickering and the constant "threat" to blowup the economy that is ripping at the soul of the nation.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 10/12/13 - 07:19 am
3
2
I suppose the financial

I suppose the financial hardship must not be too terrible if he is "arranging to have his house exterior painted". Here's a man that has worked long enough to accumulate 6 weeks of paid vacation and evidently hasn't used any of it within the 10 months of this year? Sounds like a workaholic and even with the trip to Italy next year, most companies do not allow you to roll over that much vacation time.....so he probably was just going to sell it. Actually the time off might be benefical to him.....get some things done around the house and the body always needs some rest.

david jennings
624
Points
david jennings 10/12/13 - 07:22 am
2
0
Any fix is probably temporary

Without sacrifice, which, seems, noone likes of course, any plan hatched by either party is just putting off paying the tab. We (USA) have had it pretty good. I'm a baby boomer and have worked all my life, never had a paid vacation, but thats my fault. I can still count my blessings, there are others suffering more than me and others much better off. Then, I'm not depending on the government for my contentment. Those who are seem to be disappointed.

soapy_725
44111
Points
soapy_725 10/12/13 - 07:41 am
0
0
His concern is for Italy. ME ME What about the Fall of America?
Unpublished

Typical news story. This will certainly ring true to many hourly workers with no benefits. No Golden Parachute. How will he get paid for leave if there is no money? This is all another propaganda parade for the masses.

soapy_725
44111
Points
soapy_725 10/12/13 - 07:43 am
0
0
What of concerns that SRS could melt down and create
Unpublished

generations of "mutant South Carolinians". Oh. We already have that situation.

soapy_725
44111
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soapy_725 10/12/13 - 07:44 am
0
0
SC was written off in 1950 under "for the greater good".
Unpublished

SC was written off in 1950 under "for the greater good".

JRC2024
10420
Points
JRC2024 10/12/13 - 08:14 am
1
0
Good for you Mr. Jennings.

Good for you Mr. Jennings. Judging by the look of his front porch, he has a nice house which means he has had a good job for a long time. He should have been able to sock away a good deal of money in his working years. Lots of things need to change in the government such as the amount of money we send to foreign countries, the health system for the government(they should live under what we have), pay for the congress and the senate after they leave office, and entitlement programs to name a few. We need an entire revamping of the way we spend money, and get us thou of those god forsaken islamic countries.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 10/12/13 - 08:19 am
0
0
Almost every year the good
Unpublished

Almost every year the good folks at SRS / SRP or whatever it goes by now comes along and gets rid of jobs. There is no way I would even consider working out there because you never know who is next.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 10/12/13 - 10:22 am
4
2
If you keep blaming the GOP
Unpublished

If you keep blaming the GOP because the Democrats have OPENLY stated that they WILL NOT COMPROMISE, then the sheep will believe you.....Keep up the good work, libs.

Darby
29232
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Darby 10/12/13 - 10:39 am
4
2
"By the Grand Old Party."

In your wildest fantasy.

It was never the GOP that refused to even talk.

If the GOP loses the fight it just reinforces common knowledge that in real life, unlike the movies, sometimes evil triumphs.

Certainly, in the short run.

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 10:44 am
1
0
HA @ 11:22

"If you keep blaming the GOP because the Democrats have OPENLY stated that they WILL NOT COMPROMISE, then the sheep will believe you.....Keep up the good work, libs"

HEY now! Didn't think you were going to be on today. Of course you know that I stal......I mean, follow you! But to get to your comment, THE PEOPLE are blaming The Republicans for a lot these days!

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 10/12/13 - 10:47 am
5
2
The reason THE PEOPLE are
Unpublished

The reason THE PEOPLE are blaming the GOP is because that is what they President and the media keep saying over and over and over. Repeat a lie enough and eventually people believe it's true......a quote from one of Obama's mentors.

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 10:56 am
2
2
HA @ 11:47

"The reason THE PEOPLE are blaming the GOP is because that is what they President and the media keep saying over and over and over. Repeat a lie enough and eventually people believe it's true......a quote from one of Obama's mentors"

IT IS ALWAYS the liberal media! I guess for you conservatives' sake, The AC is ALWAYS there for y'all! And if you haven't looked, you conservatives ARE WAY OUT-NUMBERED on this articla!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 11:03 am
1
0
In the majority, FINALLY

I think we liberals and / or Independents ARE FINALLY in the majority on this articla.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 10/12/13 - 11:04 am
3
2
Well in the FEW conservative
Unpublished

Well in the FEW conservative media outlets there are, they aren't pushing the completely biased view that even though the Democrats have openly stated that they WILL NOT NEGOTIATE, that somehow it's the GOP's fault......they even have named it "the Republican shutdown." You don't hear the conservative news outlets naming it "the Democrat shutdown", but you sure will hear the President do the former.

Humble Angela
41338
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Humble Angela 10/12/13 - 11:06 am
3
2
"I think we liberals and / or
Unpublished

"I think we liberals and / or Independents ARE FINALLY in the majority on this articla [sic]."

Who on Earth cares? Great numbers doesn't make a lie any more true....scroll up to my quote about repeating a lie enough times.

t3bledsoe
14291
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t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 11:13 am
1
0
HA @ 12:04

"You don't hear the conservative news outlets naming it "the Democrat shutdown", but you sure will hear the President do the former."

I just thought of something. It does help me to exercise my brain once in a while.
If someone throws the first rock that starts a fight, who is at fault for the entire fight?

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 11:17 am
0
0
HA @ 12:06

"Who on Earth cares? Great numbers doesn't make a lie any more true....scroll up to my quote about repeating a lie enough times"

You can be crual!! I could correct your grammer, but I see you are some-what mift already. I believe my statement about US finally in the majority is true. I am finally learning who are liberals on here.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 10/12/13 - 11:25 am
2
2
You could TRY to correct my
Unpublished

You could TRY to correct my grammar (which you ironically misspelled), but my intention was that "great numbers" was used as a singular whole. If I meant each individual number, and "numbers" was plural, then you could correct me.....But thanks for trying.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 10/12/13 - 11:27 am
1
1
Hmmmm...the first rock? You
Unpublished

Hmmmm...the first rock? You mean by stating that you will not compromise? Is that the first rock you are talking about?

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 11:34 am
1
1
HA @ 12:27

"Hmmmm...the first rock? You mean by stating that you will not compromise? Is that the first rock you are talking about"

OH NO. You are not going to get away with this one!! The first rock was The Republicans trying to defund Obamacare.

Are you at the Clemson game?

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 10/12/13 - 11:39 am
1
1
First rock.
Unpublished

And who was it that passed obamacare, against the will of the people, and while shutting Republicans out of negotiations?

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 11:43 am
1
0
HA @ 12:39

"And who was it that passed obamacare, against the will of the people, and while shutting Republicans out of negotiations"

Resent history doesn't spell out the truth on this issue.
Carolina is loosing!!

t3bledsoe
14291
Points
t3bledsoe 10/12/13 - 11:53 am
1
0
Angela

Glad you joined us today!

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