DFAS union keeps wary on on potential impacts of automation project

Dave Gymburch
Staff writer
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Posted 8/12/19

Defense Finance and Accounting Service union officials are hoping to strike a balance so that a potential automation project to boost efficiencies doesn't result in major impacts on the numbers of …

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DFAS union keeps wary on on potential impacts of automation project

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Defense Finance and Accounting Service union officials are hoping to strike a balance so that a potential automation project to boost efficiencies doesn't result in major impacts on the numbers of jobs at the Rome DFAS center at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park.

The potential change might be a future intent of DFAS, says Rome DFAS union head Edward Abounader, who noted there has been no formal notice but a recent professional development presentation brought more attention to the technology.

Abounader in an email message Thursday to Rome DFAS union employees cited a video Wednesday at a professional development event and said "is the beginning of the DFAS automation project that will affect bargaining unit employees especially at the technician level."

His message added "this will be a priority subject" at an American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)/DFAS National Council conference this week. Abounader is president of the Rome DFAS union local and the AFGE/DFAS National Council.

Abounader, who was at the professional development session last week and saw the video, said it was presented only as an example of "technology out there." But he said the types of automated processes reflected by the video could possibly have "pretty devastating" impacts for the Rome DFAS workforce if ever implemented.

Rome DFAS, based at Griffiss park, has about 960 employees including about 850 in the union bargaining unit, said Abounader. A "substantial number" are involved in accounting technician work including data-entry functions among the tasks, he noted.

Much of the automated technology that was represented could "affect entry-level accounting technicians and data-entry personnel," Abounader observed, and could "lessen the need for accounting technicians." For example, among Rome DFAS operations are the processing of travel-expense vouchers from military members, including inputting information, he explained. The automated technology software could reduce the manual functions, he remarked.

Possible benefits could include "productivity is higher and the timeframe is lower," resulting in substantial efficiency improvements, said Abounader.

"I'm hoping it can be done mutually....Enhance DFAS, do the work, and employees are not adversely affected," Abounader commented.

Based on input from this week's Management Council meeting, the union will formulate steps to make sure it is "involved in pre-decision activities" with DFAS officials if automation is pursued, said Abounader.

"We have to be vigilant...be involved....," remarked Abounader. He added that within the union contract "we have a right to be at the table" for situations that may affect employees such as work activities.

Rome is one of five major sites for DFAS. The others include Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; and Limestone, Maine.

Abounader said that if the automation does occur, he thinks the impact will be "not only Rome, but all sites" within DFAS.

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