WASHINGTON — Tinker Air Force Base officials are hoping 750 blue-collar employees will accept buyouts this fall as the aircraft maintenance center tries to align its workforce with the workload.
Civilian workers targeted for the early retirement and voluntary separation programs began receiving notices early this month to gauge interest. The effective dates for those who accept are expected to be in October or November.
This is the fourth round of buyouts at the base since 2011 but the first extended to mechanics and other “wage-grade” workers. The first three rounds resulted in about 210 early departures. Should base officials meet their goal this round, the state's largest single-site employer will have shed nearly 1,000 people in less than two years through buyouts.
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.
James Schmidt, the union representative for workers at the aircraft depot, said he thought the goal of 750 employees accepting the buyouts would be met. The furlough days and the prospect of more in the next fiscal year, he said, will give more impetus to those who were already open to the idea of leaving the base, Schmidt said.
It had been a sore point for the blue-collar workers, Schmidt said, that they had not been able to participate in earlier buyout offers.
“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.”