“Oh, my gosh, it is such a relief to be back to work.”
Information officer Julie Speegle is one of about 111 NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office employees back at their desks in Juneau’s federal building. About 125 at the Auke Bay lab are also working, now that Congress has reached a deal to end the partial government shutdown. The Alaska Regional division has offices from Seattle to the Pribilof Islands, employing more than 500. Most have been on furlough.
Speegle says NOAA Fisheries’ top priority in Alaska for the first day back is getting permits to about 80 crab vessels stuck in Dutch Harbor.
Oct. 15th was the first day of the crab fishery, but without a federal permit, the boats couldn’t fish.
“We have staff working very hard to get those out and we hope to have them issued by the end of the day tomorrow,” Speegle says.
According to the state Labor Department, the federal government employs about 5 percent of Alaska’s workforce in both military and civilian jobs. The U.S. Forest Service is one of the largest federal employers in Southeast Alaska, with about 400 workers; 50 in Juneau offices. They’re also back to work.
Federal workers who were furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown will get back pay in their next paychecks, which for most employees will come on Oct. 29th.
The timeline announced by the government Thursday means workers will have to wait nearly two weeks to recover back wages. The National Treasury Employees Union says is asking agencies to issue retroactive paychecks next week.
Federal workers are slated to get a 1 percent pay raise in January, the first increase since salaries were frozen in 2010. The legislation opening the government keeps on track the plan for the raises laid out earlier this year by the Obama administration.