HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- A partial let-up on the federal government shutdown has resulted in hundreds of civilian workers returning work at Hill Air Force Base.
"As of midnight, Oct. 7, all Air Force Materiel Command returned to work," said George Jozens, a base spokesman told the Standard-Examiner on Monday. "The majority of the 2,700 civilians furloughed are back to work."
The news was a welcome relief for the military base that serves as the largest single-site employer in the state of Utah.
"Good news," Jozens said.
Union officials for the American Federation of Government Employees, according to the Associated Press, said they believe as many as 90 percent of the 2,700 furloughed workers would be returning.
"They're glad to be back to work, but they are uncertain about their pay. That's still up in the air," said Tony Valdez, a representative for AFGE Local 1592, which represents 8,000 workers at Hill Air Force Base -- aircraft mechanics, electricians, sheet-metal workers, machinists and others. "They may be coming back to work without pay."
The federal government has been shut down for a week as Washington D.C. politicos wrangle over legislation related to the implementation of President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act, aka ObamaCare.
"It was vitally important for Team Hill to return our civilian personnel to work," said Col. Kathryn Kolbe, 75th Air Base Wing commander.
"All of our civilians play an important role in accomplishing the Air Force mission, and we are grateful for their contributions and for their continued patience during this challenging time," Kolbe said.
"With Team Hill's diverse mission sets, we are reliant on our civilian and military personnel working together as a team to get the job done," she said.
Employing more than 20,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel, the base has an economic impact of about $3 billion annually.
In general, employees are expected to report within 24 hours. For specific reporting information, all Hill furloughed employees should work through their respective supervisors and chain of command, Kolbe said.
But while doors have opened at the base, other federal government agencies remain shut down, including national parks -- severely affecting Utah's tourism dollars, and the IRS Ogden Service Center, which employs about 2,500 Top of Utah workers.
The Pentagon announced Saturday it would order almost all of its 350,000 civilian employees furloughed by the government shutdown to work this week.
Pentagon officials said more than 90 percent of its furloughed employees are expected to return to work, under a decision made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the workers are needed to support the readiness of the military.
Hagel's decision to lift furloughs on civilian base personnel comes on the heels of an admonishment to do so by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah.
Bishop stated in an Oct. 2 media release:
"The administration needs to keep their hands off the pay of those hard workers who are all essential to supporting the war fighter and the common defense of our country, which is a primary function of the federal government under the Constitution."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.