Fort Meade workers fail to save jobs

November 07, 2003|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Workers at Fort Meade lost a last-ditch effort yesterday to save more than 220 jobs, clearing the way for a private contractor to take over the positions by early next year.

The Department of the Army announced that it had denied all three appeals to its decision in August that granted Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc. a five-year, $33 million contract to manage Fort Meade's logistics and public works departments.

The workers' appeals came from Local 1622 of the American Federation of Government Employees and a group of logistics employees, and the decisions in both of those cases are final.

A third appeal came from Cube Corp., one of Johnson Controls' rival bidders. The rules permit Cube to appeal to the Government Accounting Office within 10 days of the announcement.

The affected employees, among them mechanics, supply workers and administrators, have known that layoffs were possible since the Army began assessing the base's support jobs four years ago.

The assessment is part of the A-76 process, a U.S. Office of Management and Budget directive to cut costs.

But workers complained that the process was unfair after Johnson Controls won. Chief among the complaints was the role of the company's vice president, David H. Toops, who served as Fort Meade's garrison commander from 1995 to 1997 - a time when the base was undertaking some of its cost-cutting measures.

In response to workers' concerns, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski wrote to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in September outlining her concerns about the process and urging him to ensure workers had "every opportunity" to appeal.

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes also became involved and wrote to Army Secretary R.L. Brownlee about concerns that the contractor would increase costs after it won the work.

Sarbanes also said that the government workers were at a disadvantage because the government team bidding on the contract did not see the private-sector bids, while private bidders saw the government cost figures.

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