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Lawn mowing, trash collection on base set to be limited

By NICOLE CLARK

Staff writer

Federal employees aren’t the only ones feeling the impact from government budget cuts and the possibility of furloughs.

Some of the service contractors — the women and men who mow lawns, take out trash and drive employees, including the handicapped, from building to building across a 14,502-acre air station that has about 79 miles of roads — are perhaps being hit even harder, union representatives say.

A team of transportation workers at Patuxent River Naval Air Station has already been laid off this month. Rick Compher, a representative with the District 4 Lodge of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the union has about 1,000 members, workers at Pax River, who will be affected. Already, six have been laid off and two more have had all but 16 hours of their work weeks taken away. And, he estimates another 20 to 25 service workers could be laid off.

Compher said most of the service workers at the air station make between $15 and $20 an hour. Reductions in pay could be as much as $500 a month — a car payment for many people, or a family’s groceries. “You’re going to have to try to figure out how you’re going to make that up and it’s going to be difficult,” Compher said.

In many cases service contractors only receive about two weeks’ notice before they’re laid off. “We are being hurt. In some cases, devastated, by what is going on,” Compher said.

Representatives from the IAMAW say that trash collection on the air station will be reduced. In some cases, janitors will no longer go from office to office to collect garbage. Employees on the air station will have to bring their trash to a central location, they said. And janitorial services also are scheduled to be reduced.

“I guess some of these people are going to have to learn how to clean toilets,” one union representative said.

Mark Duval, also with the IAMAW, said that in some families, more than one person works on the base under these contracts. Sometimes it’s a mother and a son, or a husband and wife who both work at Pax River.

“Nobody who has been working for years likes to go out and say, ‘I don’t have a job’ and can’t provide for my family,” he said.

“That’s just not the American way,” said Fred Mason, president of the Maryland and District of Columbia AFL-CIO. He’s also worried about the long-term credit ratings of those laid off or furloughs and whether it could affect their ability to get security clearances if jobs open up again.

If furloughs and layoffs continue, “millions of people will end up suffering,” Mason said — their wallets, and their pride.

At Pax River, some of the service contractors who cut the grass or clean buildings, Duval said, have been doing that work for years, even decades in some cases. And, they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, he said. People often drive on base and comment on how beautiful the lawns and foliage are. Now, union workers say, grass isn’t scheduled to be cut weekly and could be allowed to grow for two or three weeks at a time.

“It’s kind of demoralizing,” Compher said. “The appearance of what you’ve been doing for years is going to slowly erode away.”

nclark@somdnews.com