NATCA’s Battle Far From Over Says Carr
Well, John Carr, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, has never been lost for words but he was in rare form last Thursday when we caught him, on his cellphone, on a Washington, D.C., freeway, for our Friday podcast. It was about 12 hours after a vote on a bill in the House of Representatives to send NATCA and the FAA back to the bargaining table missed the necessary two-thirds majority by eight votes and Carr told AVweb that the defeat was a setback in a battle that will continue indefinitely as far as he’s concerned.
“We will fight it every day, every week and every month until we overturn it,” he said. Carr isn’t detailing the union’s strategy but he did say that NATCA is considering legislative and legal action and, of course, the court of public opinion, in its fight. The cleanest and ultimately most effective would be to convince Congress of the rightness of its cause and it seems logical that will consume much of NATCA’s energy in coming months. “Hope springs eternal,” Carr said. “There are lots of legislative strategies available.”
Immediate Impact: Delays, Safety Concerns
One of NATCA’s bargaining chips through negotiations and the 60-day period of congressional consideration was that the last best offer by the FAA, which theoretically is in the process of being imposed on the union, will actually cost the top echelon of controllers money. If those most experienced controllers continue working, changes to location pay and other bonuses would ultimately have a negative effect on their pensions. Carr claims that 25 percent of the workforce, 4,000 controllers, virtually all of them the most experienced and knowledgeable members, will opt for retirement rather than stay on. He told us he’d already heard from some who were doing just that.
“Air traffic controllers are heading for the exits,” he said. The result, he said, will be traffic delays and, inevitably, safety concerns. Carr said that as traffic increases and the number of controllers decreases the system will lose “elasticity.” Although the FAA has announced plans to hire 12,500 controllers over the next 10 years, Carr said it won’t be enough. “She [Administrator Marion Blakey] can’t hire and train them fast enough.”