EDITORIAL: A Message Worth Taking to Heart

Some time in our lives we’ve heard the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Now is the time that we ask all Robins workers – no matter if you’re labor or management – to take that message to heart.

It’s time to understand that Robins cannot succeed if we don’t address our labor relations head on.

Right now we have about 200 grievances filed compared to 60 complaints at Hill and 40 at Tinker air force bases.

So what’s the difference? Are their people any better than ours? Are they more patriotic and hardworking than us? Do they know something we don’t?

The simple answer to these questions is no.

But what we know is that we must do a better job together. We need to improve the lines of communication and cooperation between labor and management.

We have to be committed to working seriously to solve our issues. We have to truly believe in the concept of “One team … One fight.” We owe that to our workforce, the warfighters we support around the world and our national defense.

We must remind our people that we can’t succeed without one another. We must take every opportunity to strengthen our relationship.

While the grievance process is important, and we must take care of our workforce; I encourage everyone to first settle issues at the lowest possible level, and follow the procedures in place to handle employee grievances in accordance with the AFMC-AFGE Council 214 Master Labor Agreement.

I challenge our leaders, managers and workers to listen to what is being said. It’s only been a few years since we were given 39 OSHA citations. Many people were concerned that we could be shut down. But as a team, we persevered. We worked together and dramatically improved our occupational safety and health compliance.

Just this past year some of our accomplishments have included:

  • Upgrading and fully deploying the Robins Hazard Reporting Tool to all employees, including a link for employees to submit concerns directly to OSHA, if desired;
  • A multi-functional inspection team – including safety, industrial hygiene, union, line employees and supervisors – conducted OSHA sustainment inspections every 90 days to ensure compliance with abatement plans;
  • Realized an 85 percent reduction in open bio-environmental findings;
  • Partnered with Georgia Tech to conduct seven OSHA courses resulting in 12 individuals certified in occupational safety and health;
  • Improved joint OSHA Working Group consisting of senior leaders from Safety, Health, Industrial hygiene and AFGE 987 with weekly tactical and Strategic focused meetings; and
  • The development of a safety management system by a combined team.

We’ve also started working in several areas to improve labor relations.

For the first time in 31 years, labor and management have diligently worked to Update the Local Supplemental Agreement.

We conducted a session for supervisors to reiterate expectations in terms of complying with labor agreements; provided updated training regarding conduct and discipline, hiring, leave and absence, grievance and complaint procedures, and work schedules; and began a labor relations cultural team to delve into the root causes of labor relations problems.

If we can accomplish all of that, it should be easy for us to take the simple message of working together to heart.

I’m willing; are you?

Colonel Mitchel H Butikofer is the Commander, 78th Air Base Wing, and Installation Commander, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

Categories: Brandon Long

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