Originally created 03/14/03

Call-ups result in staffing battles



The door remains locked most of the week at the 8th Street Vintage.

Its owner, Brad Owens, is in Kuwait, along with the rest of his Army Reserve unit. His girlfriend, Julee Bode, has time only on the weekends to run the downtown vintage clothing store.

"If I wasn't here, he pretty much would have to close the shop," said Ms. Bode, who also runs her own graphic design business. "I'm just trying to hold down the fort."

While the impact of deployed reservists is evident on the small businesses they've left, even large companies are working to compensate for employees readying for combat.

In the preparations for a potential war with Iraq, more than 188,000 National Guardsmen and reservists have been mobilized, including 184 from the Augusta area. An additional 530 Guardsmen in the Augusta-based 878th Engineering Battalion are expected to head overseas next week.

Some companies must replace the workers, which range from security officers to computer technicians.

Debbie Elder, the district manager for Manpower Temporary Services, said the staffing company had to replace four reservists who had worked in Club Car's temporary pool.

The jobs reservists and guardsmen are leaving behind are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, a federal law that obligates employers to rehire anyone called to active duty for up to five years.

The law does not provide for the employee to continue receiving a paycheck, and for some, there is a noticeable difference between their new military pay and their former civilian wages.

BellSouth, which had six workers in the local area leave, is one of several large corporations that make up the difference in pay and benefits after workers are called up for active duty.

"Whenever possible we try to absorb the work within the current work force," said Stan Shepherd, the regional manager for BellSouth. "We may have to fill their position with part-time or possibly full-time positions, but they are guaranteed when they return employment within a position of like pay and status."

SMALL BUSINESS LOAN

Small businesses that are severely impacted by the loss of employees called up for duty by the reserves might qualify for an economic injury disaster loan through the Small Business Administration. Visit www.sba.gov/reservists/disloan for details.

For information about the labor rules concerning activated reservists visit the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve's Web site at www.esgr.org.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.