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Furloughed SRS workers return to work Monday

Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 7:45 PM
Last updated Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 1:43 AM
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After hearing late Wednesday that Congress had agreed to reopen the federal government, Gary Driesen logged onto Savannah River Site’s web page to see if the nuclear reservation had authorized his return to work.

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Driesen  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Driesen

It hadn’t.

Driesen and his 1,400 furloughed coworkers at Savannah River Remediation won’t return to work until Monday, according to a U.S. Energy Department statement issued Thursday. That will be 16 days off the job.

“It’s encouraging,” Driesen, 64, of Martinez, said of the legislation President Obama signed to end the partial shutdown. “But how it’s going to impact me and all the other employees at SRS is not real clear yet.”

What remains unclear, some remediation employees said, is if they will be compensated for the thousands of dollars of emergency savings and weeks of paid vacation they used to stay afloat while without a steady income.

According to the 2014 Continuing Appropriations Act, the Treasury had its borrowing power extended through Feb. 7, allowing the government to reimburse all “federal workers” for furloughed paychecks.

However, Driesen, whose use of paid leave during the shutdown hampers his plans to travel abroad next year and possibly take a trip with his grandson to visit his elderly parents in Wisconsin, said he does not know if the bill includes contractors.

James Giusti, the director of the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Office of External Affairs, said Thursday that as far as he knows, contracted employees, such as the ones at SRR, will not be compensated for furloughed paychecks or used vacation time.

Chris Johnson, an engineer at Savannah River Remediation, said he doesn’t expect to be reimbursed for the savings he exhausted to pay for food and living expenses.

“But at least the shutdown is officially over,” said Johnson, 62, of North Augusta.

Driesen and Johnson said they expect to encounter some backlog of work when they return to SRS to complete design calculations and improve and optimize engineering programs.

“We are going to have to take a deliberate approach to ramping up operations again to make sure everyone is focused on procedure and safety,” Johnson said. “Things will be kind of slow going for a while.”

Johnson said he was confident Congress would pass legislation ahead of the debt-limit deadline. However, he added his optimism for long-term government stability is not great.

“Until they straighten out the budget, government functions are going to be a year-to-year, month-to-month operation,” he said.

Comments (9) Add comment
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bubbasauce
20573
Points
bubbasauce 10/17/13 - 09:15 pm
2
8
"Things will be kind of slow

"Things will be kind of slow going for a while", things at SRS have been slow going for about 50 + years! That's a fact Jack. All these people got was a paid vacation, most of them anyway. Welcome back to paradise people. Thank goodness you all didn't have to go out and get a real job.

Pops
7551
Points
Pops 10/17/13 - 09:20 pm
3
7
They make enough

money while on the "job"..........gotta poor-mouth, though.......

Augusta Jacket
17
Points
Augusta Jacket 10/17/13 - 09:44 pm
9
1
@ Bubbasauce

@ Bubbasauce
There are millions of gallons of nuclear waste out there sitting in underground tanks. From what I understand, the current mission is to dispose of the waste. While you might not appreciate what they do out there, I like drinking water without nuclear contamination is important.

nnaugusta
533
Points
nnaugusta 10/17/13 - 11:30 pm
6
1
Envy and jealously is alive

Envy and jealously is alive and well in these comments.
Most people who comment about government jobs don't have a clue what goes on. Nice Corvette by the way bubbasauce.

OJP
6212
Points
OJP 10/18/13 - 01:14 am
7
3
@nnaugusta

I agree. Stop maligning your fellow citizens simply because they work for the government. They are people too with children, mortgages, car payments, etc.

bubbasauce
20573
Points
bubbasauce 10/18/13 - 02:21 am
1
7
I have nothing against people

I have nothing against people working out there because I have worked out there six times over my career. I very well know what they are doing out there. I have worked in the Nuclear Industry for thirty years and traveled to several different countries working at various nuclear plants. Also many of my family members have worked there and still do. Sorry if I struck a nerve in you all that work there.

soapy_725
43634
Points
soapy_725 10/18/13 - 07:17 am
0
0
Its sad that with all of the good pay, that two weeks off puts
Unpublished

them in the poor house. A major contradiction. But this is government work, right.

soapy_725
43634
Points
soapy_725 10/18/13 - 07:18 am
0
0
Hate to think what there tale would be in private industry. Two
Unpublished

weeks without pay. But they will get back pay with interest.

soapy_725
43634
Points
soapy_725 10/18/13 - 07:19 am
0
0
Off to Italy, Off to the condo at Hilton Head, IOP or Edsito.
Unpublished

Off to Italy, Off to the condo at Hilton Head, IOP or Edsito.

soapy_725
43634
Points
soapy_725 10/18/13 - 07:23 am
0
0
Memories of sleeping for 12 hours in an overhead crane. Had to
Unpublished

someone in the crane. The Federal Contract called for someone in that crane. Sixteen inspectors, 25 janitors, 43 NO SHOWS. 85 workers with security clearance to escort the other 85 to their assignments.

soapy_725
43634
Points
soapy_725 10/18/13 - 07:24 am
0
0
19 SRS employees watching 19 sub contractors clean up a spill
Unpublished

19 SRS employees watching 19 sub contractors clean up a spill

grinder48
1846
Points
grinder48 10/18/13 - 08:20 am
0
0
Gov't Shift
Unpublished

These people were able to draw state unemployment while on furlough so - in essence - the fed gov't shifted the burden to the state of SC. We really need to get rid of the bums in Washington ...

Sweet son
9986
Points
Sweet son 10/18/13 - 11:24 am
1
0
Only Mr. Johnson mentioned in the article had it right!

"“But at least the shutdown is officially over,” said Johnson, 62, of North Augusta."

It's over is the best part and nothing in this life is guaranteed so he is a smart man. We all will have to wait and see what 'our' government does in the future because it impacts all of us and not just government employees.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 10/18/13 - 12:23 pm
3
1
Actually MOST of the workers
Unpublished

Actually MOST of the workers did NOT get a "paid vacation." This late in the year, most workers at SRS did not have the accrued vacation time to cover the furlough, and since they are NOT government workers, they will not get back pay for the time off.

FastFission
31
Points
FastFission 10/18/13 - 01:32 pm
4
0
At SRS

At SRS it's the oversight that slows work, neutrons are fast - work is slow. Making the daily log (aka mistake) is a bad day, week or more.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 10/18/13 - 01:42 pm
3
1
Good point fastfission.
Unpublished

Good point fastfission. During the cold war, production was so fast it was mind boggling....that's one of the reason's we won. The new layer of regulations and oversight have ground work to a crawl. The reactors and canyons were built in at a dizzying pace....but now we can't even finish MOX.

Radwaste
400
Points
Radwaste 10/18/13 - 03:48 pm
3
0
This isn't over!

Hello? Have you not realized that the SAME people are STILL in charge of the Federal government - and that we STILL do not have an actual, Constitutionally mandated budget?

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