Friday, December 08, 2023

Study eyes outsourcing losses

| September 24, 2004 12:00 AM

By Brent Shrum, Western News Reporter

Responding to a trend to ³outsource² federal jobs to private contractors, the union representing Forest Service employees is developing a study of the movement¹s impact on rural communities.

Mark White, an archaeologist and union steward with the Kootenai National Forest, met with the Lincoln County Commissioners Wednesday to gather information for the study. White said he¹s also been working with local school districts to determine the number of students with parents who work for the Forest Service and the potential affect on school budgets if 60 to 70 percent of those jobs are lost due to outsourcing.

Commissioners Marianne Roose and Rita Windom said they are aware of the outsourcing trend but have been given a figure of 30 percent as the number of jobs that could disappear.

In light of the apparent push toward outsourcing at the national level, the ultimate number of positions to be eliminated may be much higher than currently forecast, White said.

³We¹re doing a worst-case scenario as if they do go through with full outsourcing,² he said.

The commissioners said they have already sent a letter to Forest Service officials expressing their concerns.

³That letter was sent quite some time ago,² Roose said.

The loss of good-paying Forest Service jobs would be felt across the local economy, Roose said.

³It¹s a trickle-down effect that impacts the community,² she said.

The effect on the economy would be ³huge,² Windom said, but the more intangible social and cultural impacts would also be significant due to the high level of involvement of Forest Service employees in the community.

³To remove those people from our community I think would be somewhat devastating,² she said.

The Kootenai National Forest currently employs about 300 people permanently and another 300 seasonally. Windom compared the potential impacts of outsourcing to a mill closure.

³It would be just like losing a large corporation out of our communities,² she said.

Local Forest Service technological and financial jobs have already been lost to regional consolidation, White said. The trend toward outsourcing is likely to have a greater impact on rural areas than on urban areas, he said.

³The contractors, from what I understand, will be nationwide,² he said. ³They won¹t have a tie to your community.²

Roose expressed concerns about the loss of the ties between local governments and citizens and the Forest Service.

³The connection to the people I think is pivotal,² she said.

White said he would update the commissioners on the progress of the study. The intent is to be able to provide facts and figures to lobby against outsourcing at the national level.