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Robins-union relationship 'Improving' | News

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Robins-union relationship 'Improving'
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The number of grievances filed by Robins employees during the past year have stayed roughly the same.

That's despite pledges by the new union leadership to decrease the number of formal complaints alleging workplace violations at Robins.

However, union leaders and base management say those numbers don't tell the full story of their improving relationship.

Executive Vice President at the American Federation of Government Employees Local 987, Charles Howard, has been a union member for 15 years.

He says since the new administration took office last November, their way of doing business has changed. (The new administration officially took over in March. Irregularities were found in the first election, so a second was held in the spring, with the same results.)

Howard said, "It's different. We have taken a whole different approach."

The union overturned the leadership, ushering in President Robbie Tidwell's open-dialogue approach with workers and base management.

Tidwell said, "We are communicating better. Working together better."

Tidwell says he spends a few days a week on the flightline, talking with workers. He said, "We have got to listen to the workforce. They need parts. We got to make sure their parts are there on time."

He says he relays workers messages to base management weekly.

Tidwell said, "I'm trying to help bridge that gap between the management and workers again."

He sees progress, although the high volume of grievances--- considered a barrier in keeping and bringing more work to Robins--- remains largely unchanged. 489 filed in FY 2013. 451 were filed in FY 2014, according to numbers provided by the union.

Tidwell said, "There's some folks that don't like the approach were taking, working with management."

Tidwell says that group of about a dozen people, continues to file numerous grievances, inflating the numbers.

He said, "The number of people filing the grievances are down, but the individuals filing more grievances are up."

In a written statement, Robins Commander Col. Chris Hill echoed Tidwell. Hill wrote: "The Management-Labor Relationship here continues to improve, and we are encouraged by recent results. We have a lot of common ground which we discovered, and continue to discover, through open and regular communication. While the overall number of grievances has remained about the same, we have seen a drop in the number of individual filers and that is reflective of that improving level of trust. We are working together to build a relationship based on trust & respect that balances our mission and people. We must continue to improve employee engagement and enhance supervisor performance to reach to our potential."

Tidwell said other evidence of progress with worker and management relations includes a recently signed agreement, adding Robins-specific rules to the Master Labor Agreement. That's the industry-wide labor contract.

Tidwell says the local supplement had not been successfully negotiated since 1982.

He said the union is also trying to be more present in the community, and in engaging with Congressional leaders, such as Rep. Austin Scott.

Tidwell said they also signed an agreement with OSHA this year, improving safety standards at Robins.


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