Tobyhanna Army Depot furloughs begin next week
The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Tobyhanna Army Depot will begin furloughs next week as a result of automatic federal budget cuts that took hold in March.
The Monroe County facility reported Tuesday that more than 3,500 civilian employees were notified that the first day without pay will be July 12. Col. Gerhard Schroter, depot commander, said the facility will cease industrial operations on 11 straight Fridays through Sept. 20 to comply with Pentagon requirements under budget sequestration.
The furloughs resulted automatically from Congress's inability to reach a budget accord earlier this year.
The reductions slashed the depot's 2013 fiscal plan of $824 million to $742 million, an $82 million cut, according to Tobyhanna.
"The fact of the matter is, $82 million is taken out of our regional economy," said Austin Burke, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. "It's like having 10 percent of their labor force laid off. It's like seeing a layoff of 500 people."
Tobyhanna, which has more than 5,000 workers and is among the region's largest employers, is the military's main base for the maintenance and repair of communications and electronics equipment. About 2,000 Tobyhanna employees live in Lackawanna County and about 1,400 reside in Luzerne County.
Because of the facility's declining workload, Tobyhanna reported that administrators have implemented a hiring freezing and scaled back on the purchase of supplies, facility upgrades, travel and other areas. From March to May, 310 employees accepted early retirement and 333 contract employees have been released since Oct. 1, according to the depot.