FAA sends new settlement offer to NATCA

Washington DC
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A new settlement agreement from the US FAA arrived at the union representing the nation’s air traffic controllers this morning, but it is unlikely the labour situation between the two parties will be resolved any time soon.

After reaching an impasse in negotiations in 2006, FAA’s contract was imposed on the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) through a Congressional procedure.

Since then NATCA has been vocal in its unhappiness with the contract. In the spring of 2007 FAA began negotiating a settlement, not a new contract, with the union. In January of this year agency acting administrator Robert Sturgell sent a letter to NATCA President Patrick Forrey addressing pay rates, but at that time Forrey was still pressing for a new contract.

During a Congressional hearing today examining training and staffing at US air traffic control facilities, the chief operating officer of the FAA Air Traffic Organization Hank Krakowski said that the agency forwarded another settlement offer to NATCA this week, with a NATCA spokesman confirming to ATI the union received it today.

Forrey during discussions at the hearing noted that the settlement offer gave the union “nothing more” than was given last time, “maybe a little extra”.

FAA is aware that “morale is a challenge” among air traffic controllers in the US, Krakowski says.

Earlier this week the DOT’s inspector general released a review of air traffic controller training and staffing levels that indicated work rules in the 2006 contract could be a disincentive for veteran controllers to move to busier sites such as Los Angeles since the base pay rates for those individuals could drop.

Krawkowksi points out that veteran controllers are being offered relocation bonuses, with nearly 100 employees moving in the first two rounds of those incentives. The agency has started the third and fourth rounds of those bonuses.

In prepared testimony Krakowski also says that FAA is offering retention bonuses for controllers eligible for retirement that are typically 25% of an individual’s salary with a cap of $25,000. The agency has awarded 44 of those bonuses, with 26 pending consideration.

Yet during the hearing inspector general Calvin Scovel said the top reason given by most of the experienced controllers opting to vacate their positions was the contract situation.

In regards to potentially restarting contract talks between the FAA and NATCA, House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello says that until the White House and its office of management and budget take up the issue “we will be in a holding pattern”.  

While FAA attempts to keep veteran controllers in their positions, IG’s next examination of air traffic controller staffing will entail scrutinizing retention of controller in trainees.

Information supplied by the subcommittee states that FAA in 2007 reported that 60 of 1,185 controllers at its training academy failed to complete the course, and 164 developmental controllers who graduated from the academy and continued training at assigned facilities left the program.