Leaders of the union at Robins Air Force Base said Monday that a federal hiring freeze could have long-term consequences for the base.
Ray Van Schoubroek, the trustee of American Federation of Government Employees Local 987, and other union leaders held a news conference at union hall to talk about the freeze. They said the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, which does aircraft maintenance work, has 343 vacant positions that are frozen under President Donald Trump’s order issued last week for federal agencies to cease hiring for 90 days.
David Tucker, the Local 987 liaison to the maintenance area, said he is concerned that if the freeze isn’t lifted, work being done at Robins could go to private industry to ensure that it gets completed in a timely manner.
“If that were to occur, the odds of us getting that workload back are remote,” he said.
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The freeze exempts uniformed military personnel, but not civilians.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has the authority to exempt civilian jobs if those are deemed vital to national security. Van Schoubroek said he was told Monday that the Department of Defense is not seeking an exemption for civilian maintenance jobs. He did not know whether that policy would continue, and the union is lobbying Georgia’s congressional delegation to seek an exemption. Schoubroek said the aircraft maintenance jobs at Robins should be declared exempt.
“Our major concern is ... that we are not going to have enough people to meet our obligations to our customers and provide the war fighter a good airplane, simply because of the hiring freeze,” he said.
Faye Bank-Anderson, the public affairs director for Robins, said in an email Monday that the impact of the freeze on Robins is unclear.
“Robins AFB is under a civilian hiring freeze per the presidential memorandum,” she said. “While many organizations on Robins AFB will certainly be affected by the freeze, the extent of the impact to our operations is unclear at this time. The Air Force (and all the services) are still working though details of the hiring freeze, so it would be inappropriate to speculate on the implementation plan at this time.”
Johnny Michael, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, said in an email that the department “will publish further guidance regarding implementation and exemptions as soon as possible.”
He stated that anyone who had a job offer as of Jan. 22 can report to work if the start date is on or before Feb. 22. If the start date is after that, the agency head will have to review it to determine whether the job offer should be revoked.
Van Schoubroek handed out a lengthy statement that detailed the union’s position on the issue. It included criticism of the Air Force Personnel Center for taking too long to fill positions. He said it can be four months or longer to get the OK to fill a job and to get a person hired.
Schoubroek was appointed trustee of the local in August when elected officers were forced out by the national office following an investigation into unspecified charges. Before the news conference began Monday he said he would not answer questions about anything other than the hiring freeze issue.
However, when asked when a new local election would be held, he responded, “very soon.” He said a date has not been set.