The Air Force Logistics Command's decision to offer child care to its 83,000 civilian employees nationwide ends a decade of bargaining between the command and a federal workers union over the issue.
Along with Robins, expanded day-care centers will be established at the five air logistics centers: Ogden, Utah; Sacramento, Calif.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and San Antonio, Texas.Under the agreement, child care for civilians also will be offered at the ALC headquarters at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, and the Aerospace Guidance and Meteorology Center at Newark AFB in Ohio.
The agreement, which includes about 15,100 employees at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, has been hailed by both sides for introducing "a new era in labor-management relations" in the Air Force.
The Feb. 27 agreement calls on the Air Force Logistics Command to expand its child-care facilities by October and offer them to all families of civilian AFLC workers.
Military Air Force families have had access to government day care for decades, with the service partly subsidized by the Air Force.
The initial cost of expanding the service - which officials have declined to disclose - will be borne by the Air Force. The day-to-day operating costs for civilian child care will be paid by parents who enroll their children in the center, and service fees will be set by each base, according to Air Force officials.
Now, first priority for on-base child care is for military families, and just 1,000 children of civilian workers are enrolled in the AFLC centers nationwide, said AFLC spokesman Ken Perrotte.
Air Force officials, union leaders and representatives of the Federal Labor Relations Board all described the 10-year negotiations between the AFLC and Association of Federal Government Employees as "intense" and even "acrimonious" at times.
In 1978, when the association first proposed the civilian day-care centers, the Air Force refused to negotiate with the union, said Paul Palaccio, president of AFGE Council 214 in Dayton, Ohio.
The union appealed to the Federal Labor Relations Board, and in 1980 an arbitrator directed the AFLC to create the union-run day-care centers, said Perrotte of the AFLC.
The Air Force refused to comply with the arbitrator's award, even after two administrative law judges affirmed the decision against the Air Force, and a U.S. district judge in Cincinnati ordered the AFLC to authorize the union-run civilian child care in 1986.
Two years later, the Air Force comptroller general ruled that, under certain conditions, Air Force funds could be used for the union-run centers.
The labor relations board again asked the Air Force to comply with the original arbitration award. But by this time, 1988, a new dispute had arisen.
At issue was whether the Air Force would have to provide civilian child care only at the five air logistics centers, or AFLC bases at Wright-Patterson and Newark as well.