Budget cuts, tech upgrades will cost Patrick AFB workers jobs

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - More than a dozen switchboard employees at Patrick Air Force Base will be out of their jobs this fall thanks to budget constraints and a move toward automation.
 

Channel 9's Melonie Holt learned that many of those who will be out of work have disabilities.
 
The switchboard at the base is operated by employees provided by the Brevard Achievement Center. Most of its workforce is made up of people with disabilities. 
 
The agency was put on notice that due to government funding cuts, its switchboard contract at the base is anticipated to end Sept. 30 and it won't be renewed.
 
"There are about 13 people losing their jobs," said Wayne Wells with the Brevard Achievement Center.
 
Wells said there is some time to try and help find new employment for those 13 workers.
 
"We're fortunate to get that much notice," said Wells.
 
A spokesperson with Patrick AFB said the base, along with other Department of Defense installations. are in the process of upgrading and transitioning their telephone service systems to all-digital switchboards. The new automated process is expected to provide similar service at a reduced cost to the government.
 
"Budgets are cut, defense industry has been cut, NASA's been cut, they're always looking, there's never an opportunity where they're not looking to save money," said Kevin Smith, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 525.
 
Smith's union has members at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center. 
 
He said his organization is familiar with layoffs, but said workers have been fortunate not to see any recent job losses on the military side.
 
"But we're always wondering what's coming around the corner," said Smith.
 
A spokesman for Patrick Air Force Base said that over the past couple of years. there have been fiscal challenges, which included reductions in the base's workforce and the expirations of contracts.