JBER layoffs upset Alaska delegation

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 20:00

Alaska’s representatives in Washington, D.C., aren’t too happy with the recent announcement that 53 civilian workers at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson will be losing their jobs. And they made their concerns known to the United States Air Force.

“We are extremely concerned about workers impacted by this decision,” said a letter sent to the secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, and the Air Force chief of staff, Norton Schwartz, by Rep. Don Young and Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski on Nov. 4.

“We have to keep in mind these are real people and this bad news piles on to an already bleak outlook on jobs,” the letter said. “More than 50 Alaskans will be dealing with the financial and emotional realities of losing their jobs during the holiday season. We urge you to work directly with displaced workers and provide every opportunity for training and assistance to transition them into vacancies at the installation.”

The Air Force is eliminating approximately 9,000 jobs around the U.S. to stop civilian growth above fiscal year 2010 levels, according to a JBER press release.

Of the 9,000 jobs to be cut, 256 were identified at JBER. However, about 200 of those are vacant.

“Due to a large number of unfilled, recently created jobs here, along with a high vacancy rate following a three-month hiring freeze, the impact of the cuts on the current workforce was reduced,” according to a JBER press release. “Among the areas hardest hit include base planning functions, centralized fitness testing, protocol, services and civil.”

Civilian personnel officials on base will try to place as many laid-off workers as possible in other positions, according to JBER.

Young, Begich and Murkowski said they were not given a reasonable explanation for the JBER reductions.

“We were not provided detailed justification for reductions in civilian personnel at JBER,” the letter said. “. . . Information provided to our offices to date provides no substantial evidence the civilian personnel restructuring was executed in a thoughtful and concise manner to achieve savings and efficiencies.”

To ensure more Alaskans aren’t “unjustifiably” laid off, Young, Begich and Murkowski asked the Air Force to provide more details regarding future layoffs.

Those include: Conditions of separation for eliminated civilian personnel; identifying the number and nature of open billets being eliminated; and justification and details behind the elimination of billets related to joint basing at JBER.

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