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Command partnership council comes to Eglin

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The Air Force Materiel Command Partnership Council continued its discussion of how to meet civilian work force needs in the face of budget and manpower reductions during a series of meetings here Nov. 2 through 3.

The council's latest initiative is to buy licenses to put computer stations in industrial areas for people who don't have access to computers outside traditional work centers. The cost will run approximately $177,000 and the licenses will be distributed throughout AFMC bases.

Barbara Westgate, AFMC executive director, and Scott Blanch, American Federation of Government Employees Council 214 president, chair the council, which brings together union and management representatives to improve understanding of each group's initiatives and challenges and to seek common solutions. Since its inception, the council has championed many initiatives to benefit civilians, including allowing duty time for physical-fitness activities and alternate disputeresolution practices.

"There's been a lot of successes," Mr. Blanch said. "There were hundreds of regulations that languished for years before we wiped those out and instituted Air Force instructions. ADR has also been a fantastic success story."

Speaking to concerns about civilian reductions, Mrs. Westgate said she is confident that attrition will absorb most civilian reductions slated for 2007. "We're doing all we can to find a place for those who focus on core mission and do their job well," she said.

The council's latest initiative will place computers where people without regular online access can use them. "We take computers for granted, but there are people whose normal duty day is not sitting at a desk," Mrs. Westgate said. "People are not being productive if they have to go to the base exchange, commissary or hospital to access My Pay (the online leave and earnings personal management site). "They don't have time to do their normal record keeping, to change an allotment or apply for a job."

One of the main functions of the Partnership Council is to provide an opportunity to establish and improve labor-management relationships at all levels.

"If we're One Materiel Command, we need to address the issues with everyone who is a part of AFMC," Mrs. Westgate said. "The labor side, which does most of the sustainment so we can perform our mission on behalf of the warfighters, needs to understand management taskings, and we need to understand the issues on the labor side."

Mr. Blanch agrees.

"We have to keep the lines of communication open," he said. "Back in the old days, there were layers of bureaucracy before reaching senior leadership; now we can meet with the people who can do something about the issues."