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Business booming at Letterkenny Army Depot

December 05, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Success breeds success.

At Letterkenny Army Depot, that has meant mandatory overtime in recent weeks to handle hundreds of millions of dollars in workload, and more hiring is in the future, according to depot and union officials.

"You're talking to one of them," said Jerry Mellott, a depot worker and president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local 1429, which represents about 800 depot workers.

"Letterkenny began FY08 with $343 million in FY07 work still on the books," according to a memorandum e-mailed Nov. 13 by Depot Commander Col. Steven A. Shapiro to a long list of depot officials. "This is almost a full 9 months of work and is the highest amount of carryover work in the depot's history," it read.

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The memo, which was sent anonymously to The Herald-Mail, stated "opportunities for even more work are in front of us, but first, we must execute what we have," it read. "Our goal is to execute 20% more work this year than last. To do this, in addition to working overtime, we are hiring more people, both Department of Army Civilians and contractors."

"Mandatory overtime will only be worked in areas that have valid overtime requirements and the assets, parts and materials necessary to accomplish the work," Shapiro stated in a Nov. 16 memo. "We are not directing workers to do 'busy work.'"

The memo stated that supervisors would be given flexibility to accomplish the overtime goals while honoring previously scheduled leave requests.

Depot spokesman Alan Loessy said Tuesday that Shapiro issued a subsequent memorandum Dec. 1 to end mandatory overtime because it was projected that 32 percent of the carryover workload would be completed by the end of the calendar year.

"The two weeks of mandatory overtime worked," Loessy said. It will now be left to supervisors to arrange for overtime work, primarily on a voluntary basis, but mandatory as needed.

Mellott said the pay period ending Saturday marks the end of the mandatory overtime.

"It's a great position to be in at Letterkenny" compared to 1995 when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission ordered reductions at the depot, Mellott said.

"It's unfortunate to go to mandatory overtime," but the mandates of the depot's missions have to be met, he said,

"Between the unions and management, we've kind of worked together to make sure we're going to be employee-friendly" in doing so, Mellott said. It looks as though most workers will have adequate time off for the holidays and some welcomed overtime pay, he said.

Last week, the depot was presented with another pair of Shingo Awards for manufacturing excellence for its Humvee and generator programs. Letterkenny has received Shingo Awards for three consecutive years.

"Generators are just going wild. They're piled up every place," Loessy said of that fast-growing program to rehabilitate portable power equipment.

Mellott said that kind of recognition has made the depot a magnet for work.

"That has helped out immensely because we're given more workload than we can accomplish during the year," Mellott said. While the depot begins the fiscal year with a budget, more workload can be added through the year, he said.

Mellott expects the depot and its tenants will be looking for more mobile heavy equipment and automotive mechanics, welders and machinists, among other skilled workers.

Employment at the depot is now at 3,024, including 1,343 depot employees, 929 contract workers and 752 people working at tenant activities, Loessy said.

"We're going to be looking to hire both federal and temporary contract workers" in the coming year, Loessy said.

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