A union plan to let more than 80,000 civilian Air Force Logistics Command workers trade unpaid furlough days to help needy fellow workers could be more costly than the logistics command can afford, an Air Force spokesman says.
Failure to reach an agreement resulted in an impasse declared this week in talks with the American Federation of Government Employees and the appointment of an arbitrator who will make a final ruling in the case, said spokesman Kenneth N. Perrotte.The Federal Services Impasse Panel, created because federal employees may not strike, appointed N. Victor Goodman, a Columbus attorney, as arbitrator, Perrotte said. Goodman set a tentative hearing for April 27, Perrotte said.
The Air Force Logistics Command's headquarters are at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but it operates maintenance centers and parts depots nationwide. Its commander, Gen. Alfred Hansen, in February announced about 82,500 civilian workers would be furloughed because of congressional budget cuts.
The furloughs now are projected at four days one per month beginning June 17, Perrotte said.
"When Gen. Hansen first called me in February to tell me about these furloughs, he told me he wanted to lessen the impact on employees. Obviously, he didn't tell his subordinates" who are doing the negotiating, said union leader Paul Palacio.
He heads Council 214 of the government employees' union. The council represents about 73,000 logistics command workers nationwide.
Palacio said some workers wanted to trade furlough time to take extra days off "and let a needy person not take any. We do have a lot of those people on board."
Furlough days should be treated like vacation days for scheduling flexibility, he said.
"The bottom line on that is that there is no money, and whenever you try to put a program like that into effect, it is very expensive administratively," Perrotte said.
Commanders also believe they can save money on material and energy by furloughing entire departments, and those could be lost under a furlough-trading program, he said.
Perrotte said commanders also want to schedule the days so they do not pile up toward the end of the fiscal year in September.
"Management asked the union for a way to put this into effect and not make it a cost problem, and there was no answer," Perrotte said.
Palacio said both sides met three or four times with a federal mediator before Palacio asked the impasse panel to step in.
"In my opinion, we've been at impasse since March 11 and perhaps earlier," Palacio said.
The logistics command employs about 7,300 civilians in Ohio at Wright-Patterson and 2,400 at Newark Air Force Base in Newark. It also operates major centers at Ogden, Utah; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio, Texas; Oklahoma City; Warner Robins, Ga.; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona; and Battle Creek, Mich.