Base grievances down in early days of new union leadership

wcrenshaw@macon.comDecember 19, 2013 

Robert McMahon

WARNER ROBINS -- Early indications are that new union leadership at Robins Air Force Base is making a difference in reducing the number of grievances filed.

In the first 40 days since a new slate of officers took over the union, grievances have dropped by 40 percent, retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon said at Thursday’s meeting of the 21st Century Partnership.

McMahon, who leads the partnership, tossed a verbal grenade earlier this year when he said certain union and base leaders were jeopardizing the future of the base. Robins workers filed 328 grievances in fiscal 2012, which was more than the Air Force’s other two depots combined, McMahon said.

Seven months later, union members voted out the long-entrenched leadership for a new slate of officers that shared McMahon’s concerns. The previous leadership dismissed his comments, and grievances continued to rise.

While it’s too early to declare the problem solved, McMahon said the initial drop in grievances is a positive sign.

“Where we are today is dramatically different than where we were in April,” McMahon said. “They are just as aggressive in taking care of our workforce as the previous group, maybe even a little bit more so, but they also understand that taking care of the workforce isn’t the end state. It’s ensuring that the workforce is taking care of the mission, and that’s ultimately what’s necessary.”

It wasn’t the only positive sign for the coming year that McMahon discussed.

He pointed out that Congress has agreed to a two-year budget that would reduce the uncertainties of the past year. The base, as well as other military installations, dealt with furloughs and a government shutdown created by the budget impasse.

“What this will do with all of our federal government is to allow them to more effectively plan and not do the knee-jerk reactions that we had to do this past year,” he said. “There will still continue to be reductions in those budgets, but it will be less than we had anticipated, and now the federal government will actually be able to plan how we are going to execute this.”

The partnership is a group of community and business leaders that advocates for the base, particularly in the event of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission. McMahon said he expects there will be one in 2017, and the partnership’s goal is to raise $1 million next year. As of Thursday’s meeting, the partnership had raised $687,725 this year.

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