Representatives from Luke Air Force Base management are scheduled to resume talks next week with the American Federation of Government Employees 1547 Local to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement for the 56th Fighter Wing and tenant units at Luke. The current agreement was signed in 1996.
Labor contracts typically last for a three-year period, and at the end of the third year, either party has the opportunity to request to negotiate a new contract.
Management requested negotiations in 2000, and those went on for more than three years before they were suspended due to the Air Force’s pending implementation of a new civilian personnel structure, the National Security Personnel System.
Negotiations would have been allowed under NSPS, but the two sides never came back to the table. Management tried to resume negotiations in 2012, but to no avail.
Management ultimately filed an Unfair Labor Practices charge with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, and as a result, a settlement agreement was reached with the FLRA which compelled both parties to come back to the bargaining table.
“This isn’t about management versus bargaining unit employees or the union,” said Lt. Col. Todd Ladd, 56th Force Support Squadron commander. “It’s about creating an agreement that makes sense, that is discussed with the right people to protect the interests of the Luke mission, and also the interests of the employees. We think that a new agreement can do that, because it will put everything together in a single document that everybody was involved in creating.”
Bryan Evans Sr., civilian personnel officer with the 56th FSS, said the old agreement needs to be updated because there have been numerous changes to Air Force policy, procedures and regulations since the contract was originally signed in 1996.
“The language in the old contract inhibits our ability to even carry out some routine tasks,” he said. “There are things we’re required to do under new Air Force guidance, but we have this outdated agreement with the union that says this is how you’re going to do things.”
There have been dozens of memorandums of agreement signed over the years that supplement the agreement, Evans said. Those memos have no “sunset clause,” which means they are valid into perpetuity. It would make more sense to have everything consolidated in one overarching agreement that could be looked at every three years, he said.
“It would be good for the wing to have a brand new contract that’s negotiated in good faith between the union and management so we can both be on the same page to have a collaborative working contract that we can both adhere to,” he said. “That should make things go much smoother as the wing transitions from the F-16 to the F-35 over the next several years.”
For his part, union president Harley Hembd, who will be representing his organization in the negotiations, said he thinks the 1996 agreement is just fine the way it is.
The two sides will begin negotiations from 8 a.m. to noon three days a week.