Since 2006, when the FAA imposed work rules and pay cuts on controllers who were seeking a new labor agreement, the relationship between the groups has been marked by a failure to see common ground — ground they may have just found. Under the terms of a labor agreement reached Thursday, some 15,000 controllers would see an increase in pay and benefits, according to The Associated Press. However, neither the FAA nor the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has yet stepped forward to reveal the tentative agreement’s finer details. A joint statement released by the two states that under the tentative agreement, pay standards will be “more equitable,” the FAA will be able to “more effectively” redeploy controllers through the use of incentive pay, and controllers will win greater work schedule flexibility and a new process for the review of grievances. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt claimed the situation “marks a new day” in labor relations and “a new spirit of cooperation” between the two groups. He also indicated he hoped to move on to other issues. NATCA now has 45 days to ratify the agreement.
The controllers’ last contract expired in 2003, but was extended for two years under then FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. In 2006, the FAA and Congress imposed work rules that froze controllers’ salaries and reduced the new hires’ pay by about 30 percent. Since then, controller attrition, understaffing and safety issues have been talking points for the controllers union.