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Maine Shipyard Workers Get 2-Week Furlough Reprieve
03/21/2013   Reported By: Susan Sharon

About 150 Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers and their supporters rallied at a park in Portsmouth this afternoon. They came to protest automatic budget cuts that could force civilian workers to take 22 mandatory furlough days over the next several months. As Susan Sharon reports, not long after their rally the workers got a bit of good news: a two-week reprieve.

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Workers like John Joyal of Somersworth, New Hampshire, are angry that members of Congress cannot set aside their differences to prevent what's known as sequestration from affecting their paychecks. The shipyard employs about 4,700 workers in Maine and New Hampshire.

"We're not fighting with each other. We're fighting for one another!" he told his cheering colleagues. "Stop the sequestration cuts. Get into a room. Put your differences aside and get the peoples' work done! Thank you."

Tina Shaw of Eliot, Maine, has worked at the yard for nine years. She says that forced furloughs will be a hardship for her family.

"I've got two young children, so it's going to affect how I can spend my time with them. I'm gonna have to - moneywise - I'm gonna have to figure out how I'm going to get them to school and how I'm going to feed them and everything," she says.

Workers have not been officially notified about when the one-day-a-week furloughs will start. But after the rally, the U.S. Department of Defense released a statement saying that it has decided to delay the issuance of civilian employee furlough notices for approximately two weeks.

This delay will allow the department to analyze the impact of pending continuing resolution legislation on the department's resources. The statement goes on to say that there has been no decision on whether the total number of planned furlough days for fiscal 2013 will change as a result.

Still, Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King says it could forestall, or diminish them.

"So that's really good news but we're not out of the woods. I'm sure Sen. Collins feels the same way," he says. "We've been running around with our hair on fire for the last two months trying to get people's attention on this and it sounds like something may be breaking. But the longterm solution is to get ourselves a budget that unwinds this sequester and makes these cuts in a more intelligent way, and that's what I'm working on, as a matter of fact, today."

Earlier in the day, Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree spoke on the floor of the U.S. House to give her support to workers and criticize congressional inaction leading to the cuts.


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