TAMPA — The 1,500 civilian employees at MacDill Air Force Base who were forced into unpaid furloughs because of the federal government shutdown will be back at work this week.
The employees, who do a range of jobs across MacDill and its various commands, have been out of work since the fiscal year began Tuesday. Collectively, they were losing $400,000 in salary every day.
The 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill's host unit, on Sunday began notifying its furloughed civilian employees to come back to work, spokeswoman Capt. Sara Greco said.
The wing's workers will return to their jobs "as soon as is practical for them," Greco said.
U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command also began notifying their furloughed civilians to return to work.
"They will be returning on Monday," spokeswoman Capt. Christine Guthrie said of CentCom's employees.
At MacDill, 1,500 of the base's 4,000 workers had been sent home without pay. That figure included 120 furloughed CentCom civilians and 900 at SOCom.
The employees' return comes after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel decided this weekend that a majority of the Pentagon's 350,000 furloughed civilians were needed on the job for the readiness of the nation's military forces.
Hagel made the surprise announcement Saturday after Pentagon lawyers said the return of furloughed civilians was legal under the Pay Our Military Act. The provision was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama shortly before the shutdown began.
The act had initially been interpreted as only allowing those civilians with jobs that are most critical to the nation's defense to work.
Now workers await word on whether they will be compensated for pay they lost last week.
"I strongly support efforts in Congress to enact legislation to retroactively compensate all furloughed employees," Hagel said.
At a news conference last week, the 6th Air Mobility Wing's commander said furloughs increased the workload of active duty troops at the base and endangered the finances of those losing pay.
"I would like to think that morale is high," Col. Scott De-Thomas said then. "But I think I would be lying. There's a great deal of stress across the system."
Furloughs also forced the closing of MacDill's commissary, where groceries typically cost about 30 percent less than at stores outside the base. It was unclear late Sunday when the commissary would reopen.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.