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Sequestration leads to cuts at Martinsburg ATF facility

98 workers in firearms program were laid off because facility was forced to cut its budget by $82 million

April 11, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Nearly 100 government contract workers at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Martinsburg facility recently lost their jobs as a result of across-the-board federal budget cuts.

The 98 contractors laid off at the end of March were doing administrative work at the facility, according to an executive with Three Saints Bay LLC, the parent company of the prime contractor that was affected by the layoffs.

The workers in the ATF’s firearms program were laid off because the facility was forced to cut its budget by $82 million due to sequestration, a Department of Justice spokesperson said Thursday in an emailed statement.

If the sequestration cuts are sustained, up to 160 contractors could be affected, according to the Justice Department. The firearms program represents 76 percent of ATF’s total budget.

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“Unfortunately, due to sequestration, this reduction was unavoidable and will have a negative impact on our efforts to reduce gun violence,” the Justice Department spokesperson said in the email. “The Justice Department is focused on saving money where possible so as to prevent employee furloughs this fiscal year and remains focused on mission critical work, however, the impacts of the sequestration will ultimately be severe.”

The Justice Department spokesperson said in the email that sequestration, by law, requires the agency to enforce a cut across all federal programs and does not discriminate by priority or by severity of the impact to public safety.

The email was sent by Justice Department Press Secretary Adora Andy.

R. Cory Boxall, vice president for business development with Three Saints Bay LLC, said those laid off were fairly low-wage workers. Rolling Bay LLC is the prime contractor at the facility, Boxall said.

“It’s unfortunate. These folks aren’t big-dollar contractors,” Boxall said.

The government contractor told workers March 1 that there could be layoffs due to sequestration, but the government gave the company little time to actually make the cuts, Boxall said.

“March 26, we were notified by the government that the employees had to be done by March 31,” Boxall said.

About 25 percent of the company’s contract was cut as a result of sequestration, Boxall said.

Three Saints Bay LLC is an Alaskan-native holding company owned by the Old Harbor Native Corp. Old Harbor is a small Alaskan-native village of about 300 residents on Kodiak Island, according to the company’s website.

A “rapid response” informational meeting for the workers who were laid off is set for Tuesday at 10 a.m. at James Rumsey Technical Institute near Hedgesville, W.Va., said Courtney S. Sisk, a spokeswoman with the West Virginia Department of Commerce.

Sisk said government contractors are not required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to submit a notice of possible layoffs, but indicated an entity identified as Team Rolling Bay informed the state that it gave notice to employees, citing the labor law.

The WARN Act requires most employers of 100 or more employees to provide employees with a 60-day advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs, according to the Labor Department.

Boxall said the cuts were ironic given the national debate on gun control.

“Maybe these positions can come back some day,” Boxall said.

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