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Civilian, military work relationship stronger now than 10 years ago

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tim Bazar
  • 314th Airlift Wing Strategic Information Flight
Thanks to increased communication via the Labor/Management Partnership Council, the working relationship between military and civilian employees is better now than ever.

But working relationships aren't the only gain for civilians in the last ten years.

"We've seen some major improvements in both the working relationship between military and civilian, and their quality of life," said Joyce White, 314th Mission Support Squadron civilian personnel officer. "We needed a voice to air our concerns and this council has become a great tool to share and resolve issues."

The council was established in the May 1996 under an executive order from President Bill Clinton. The order directed the establishment of partnership councils to encourage military leaders to work closer with union officials.

"In the last two years I've been here, I've seen 25-plus positions in the (medical) group convert from military positions to civilian ones," said Lt. Col. John Powers, 314th Medical Support Squadron commander and council member. "That's why it's important to hear everyone's inputs - as the commander puts it, 'One team, one fight.'"

The council - typically co-chaired by the mission support group deputy commander and Local 2066 American Federation of Government Employees union president - represents all of the 400-plus civilian employees on base. Any civilian can voice issues or concerns with a council member to be discussed at the meeting, said Ms. White.

Many improvements have been made for base civilian workers over the years, but three major ones come to mind, said Ms. White.

Health care

Many improvements were made in the way medical records are maintained for civilian workers who are retired military members, reducing confusion on which record to update.

Several job-related vaccinations were added and updated to provide workers with peace of mind while working in hazardous conditions.

Civil engineer squadron employees were issued cold-weather gear for extreme temperature work. They also received washing machines to clean clothing used to work around hazardous chemicals or materials so they wouldn't contaminate their home washers.

Civilians were also recently granted permission to use the fitness center and workout with their military counterparts.

"We help the mission happen," said Ms. White. "And we can't do that if we're not being safe. These improvements have reduced many concerns faced by our civilian workers."

Alternative dispute resolutions

In the same manner military members use the chain of command, the ADR helps civilians resolve issues at the lowest level possible - cutting the amount of paperwork and time it previously took away from supervisors.

"The council helps us work on issues together before commanders become involved," said Ms. White. "Here we can resolve issues before they become problems."

Increased communication

Considered the most important improvement derived from the partnership council, members say the communication between military and civilians has grown by leaps and bounds, according to Judy Miller, Local 2066 union president and commissary teller.

"The union has become more informed about what's going on on-base," said Ms. Miller, a 20-year commissary and 14-year union veteran. "It used to be difficult to get information about what was going on around base, but since the council began, we get much more valuable information to share with our fellow workers."

"You can never communicate enough," said Colonel Powers. "The civilian workforce now has a forum to ask questions and bring issues to the table. They need to know what's going on in our world as well as theirs. Many things are different - rules, pay, rewards - but regardless, it's one team, one fight."