Hundreds of Defense workers at western Massachusetts’ two air bases are returning to work. This after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cited a legal interpretation of the Pay our Military Act over the weekend to eliminate furloughs prompted by the partial government shutdown. At Westover Air Reserve in Chicopee, 270 workers – about a third of its civilian workforce – returned to work Monday. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Bishop says he’s glad the furloughs have ended at the base. He says the furlough, the second in three months, affected morale and degraded operations at Westover.
“From people not being able to get orders processed to not being able to eat on base. Some of the maintenance was less, I mean just every area. It was not sustainable.” says Bishop. “We ran some missions and we were able to do that, but we need our folks to run correctly.”
However, Bishop says 100 Air Force reservists at Westover are still not allowed to return to work because of the shutdown. Meanwhile, a spokesman at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield says another 270 federal workers there will return to work Tuesday. What is still uncertain is whether the returning workers will get paid or issued IOU’s.