MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

July 15, 2013

Tinker proposes buyouts of 750

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Tinker Air Force Base has begun offering buyouts in an effort to trim 750 civilian workers from its payroll of some 9,000 blue-collar employees.

The proposed buyouts, the fourth at the base since 2011, are the first extended to hourly workers, such as mechanics. The first three rounds resulted in about 210 early departures by civilian employees.

James Schmidt, union representative for workers at the base’s maintenance facility, said he thought the goal of 750 would be met. Planned furlough days and the prospect of more in the next fiscal year will be an impetus to those who were already open to the idea of leaving the base, he said.

Not being able to participate in earlier buyout offers had been a sore point for the blue-collar workers, Schmidt told The Oklahoman.

“I think a lot of the folks who are 55, this is kind of what they’ve been waiting for,” he said. “I think you’ll see a lot of them go.”

The regular retirement, early retirement and voluntary separation programs carry financial incentives — some workers can get up to $25,000 in cash to leave early.

The civilian workers targeted for the early retirement and voluntary separation programs began receiving notices this month to gauge interest. The effective dates for those who accept the offers are expected to be in October or November.

The survey of workers began just before they were scheduled to take the first of 11 furlough days that will cost them 20 percent of their pay through September.

Even before automatic federal budget cuts went into effect in March, the Defense Department was required to cut nearly $500 billion over a 10-year period.

Tinker officials said that the buyouts being offered now were not related to the March budget cuts or the ones that came before.

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