NEWSCLIP-2006-06-08: FAA’s Contract To Be Imposed On Controllers

Effort Fails To Force More FAA/NATCA Negotiations

“Under the terms of our statute, the FAA’s proposed change takes effect as of today, and we will begin the process of implementing our proposal,” said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey on Monday, setting in motion a new era in the long history of FAA relations with its air traffic controllers. Not since the days of the strike under President Reagan has the situation been so tense. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) wanted the FAA to wait until a bill in Congress was voted on — a bill that would have suspended the deadline and sent both parties back to the bargaining table. Last night that vote was held … and fell short of the required two-thirds tally by nine votes. Even if the bill had passed, quotes from the White House suggest President Bush would have vetoed it. “Legislative intervention now could increase the pay of federal workers who are already on average the highest paid in government, increase pressure on the deficit, and displace funding for modernization of the air traffic control system,” the Bush White House said in a statement earlier this week, The Washington Post reported. The FAA also opposed the legislative effort. “We do not support changing the rules in the 11th hour and we do not support taking away from Congress a decision that will have significant budget consequences for the agency,” FAA spokesman Geoffrey Basye told AVweb on Tuesday. “This is why, in accordance with statute, we announced yesterday that we will move forward with implementing our last and best contract offer, which will raise the current average salary and benefits from $165,900 to $187,000.”

NATCA Vows It’s Not Over Yet

Despite last night’s disappointment, NATCA President John Carr noted that “a clear bipartisan majority” of the U.S. representatives voted in favor of the union’s position that the contract negotiations should be reopened. “We hope the FAA has received that message,” Carr said in a statement sent to AVweb last night. “NATCA will continue to pursue a legislative solution to this critical problem. We remain encouraged by the expressions of support from both sides of the aisle and in both Houses and we are confident that additional legislative avenues remain open. We’re looking forward to pursuing all remaining avenues aggressively.” Meanwhile, the FAA will move forward to impose the contract as it stands. New hires for ATC jobs will face a 30-percent lower pay scale than current workers. The union’s control over work rules and staffing levels will likely be substantially eroded. NATCA has been predicting mass retirements by weary workers who have nothing to gain by staying. “The FAA has been prepared for retirements in the work force long before these negotiations even started,” said Basye. “We have a comprehensive workforce plan that will ensure all of our facilities are staffed in a manner that guarantees safety and ensures we have the level of controllers required to deal with the traffic in the system.”

 

This content copied from the June 8, 2006 edition of ‘AvFlash’, a news-service blog provided by avweb.com. Link: http://www.avweb.com/eletter/archives/avflash/653-full.html