Pardon Dave Miller if he seems a little shell-shocked. He recently learned he’d soon be trying to run his mail room with five people, not the usual 13.

“I was quite surprised. Shocked,” Miller said.

“Of course, they’re upset,” Miller said, referring to the eight Campbell Barracks mail room workers whose last day — because of Army cost-cutting measures — is June 15.

Miller said he’s not sure yet how to deal with losing more than half his workers in a couple of weeks. “We haven’t had that meeting yet,” he said.

But shortened hours for package pick-up will obviously be considered, he said, and customers should expect longer lines. “We still have the same number of packages to give out,” Miller said.

Miller’s workers are among 352 temporary workers employed on bases throughout U.S. Army Europe who had no idea until a couple of days ago that their temp jobs — some of which were supposed to last years — were soon to be over and out.

“They just spring this on us ...” said Claudia Massimino, who’s worked at the mail room since before Christmas and whose husband is a sergeant in Iraq. “It was a big shock. It was terrible.”

Massimino said she wasn’t sure what she’ll do now, but may pursue studies in radiology. A hiring freeze instituted throughout the Army made it unlikely she’d be able to find another job, she noted.

Massimino is subject to the Installation Management Agency-Europe’s implementation of cost-cutting measures ordered last week by the Army’s vice chief of staff due to warfighting expenses said to run $5 billion a month.

The order, or guidance, which included restricted travel and a variety of other cost-cutting measures, was sent out Armywide.

IMA carried out the order immediately, and began notifying personnel and the public of the impending cuts and what they would mean, such as shorter hours at gyms and mail rooms.

On the military side, the response was different. Army spokesman Paul Boyce said that temporary workers for the Department would not be let go if Congress passed a supplemental military funding bill that has been in the works since February.

But he did not provide specifics on deadlines. Congress is not in session until Monday. The vice-chief ordered that the temps be let go by June 15, and at least one week’s notice is required.

U.S. Army Europe spokesmen declined Friday to specify how many civilian temporary workers under their purview might lose their jobs. Their news release said: “We are currently in the planning process to continue our operations through this potential resource shortfall. We are looking at a number of options to do everything possible to mitigate the effects of this challenge on our command, its Soldiers, civilians, and family members.”

Among the bases hardest hit by the temporary workers’ loss is Franconia, which employed the most, according to a chart provided by IMA-E. Of 123 temporary workers, 64 are to lose their jobs. But other bases are suffering greater temp losses, proportionally: Wiesbaden is losing 45 temps of 54, Heidelberg, 24 of 43 and Giessen, 36 of 41.

Temporary workers who work in jobs designated as directly supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are exempt from this round of what officials are calling “belt-tightening.” Among them are food service, central issuing facilities, child development centers and child youth services.

Additionally, according to IMA-E, temps at Army Community Services at Baumholder and Giessen and those for the 2nd Cavalry Regiment reception at Grafenwöhr and Vilseck also are exempt.

Of a total of 584 U.S. temps who were working for IMA-E, though, fewer than half — just 232 — are scheduled to keep their jobs.

Temporary workers tend to enjoy fewer benefits than permanent workers. That’s why when Karen Pratt started at the Campbell Barracks mail room in February — her first job in five years after the births of two daughters — she applied for permanent positions elsewhere.

“The day before we got notice, I had a job interview at the Civilian Personnel Operations Center,” Pratt said. “They gave me the job offer yesterday.”

Pratt apparently squeaked in just before the hiring freeze — which begins Tuesday. “I got lucky,” she said.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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