Key compromise reached to forward FAA Reauthorisation

Washington DC
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US House and Senate leaders have reached a compromise on divisive labour elements to be included in the years-long languishing FAA Reauthorisation bill that could finally be passed in the coming weeks.

The House last year sought to add a provision in its version of FAA Reauthorisation aimed at reversing controversial rules governing airline union elections that took effect in 2010. Overseer of the elections the National Mediation Board (NMB) reversed a decades long process requiring a union to win a majority of votes from affected workgroup to gaining the majority of votes cast.

Delta Air Lines was significantly affected by the new voting procedures, but all of its work groups opted to remain independent. Prior to its merger with Northwest Airlines, most of Delta's workgroups were non-union except for the carrier's pilots.

A decision by the House to include the labour provision created a stumbling block in negotiations with the Senate to pass a reauthorisation bill, and President Obama threatened to veto any bill that contained a requirement to change the new voting process.

Details of the compromise obtained by FlightglobalPro include raising the threshold of interest for union elections from 35% to 50% of an eligible class.

If the bill is passed runoff elections will now feature the top two options. Previously if one union garnered 47% of a vote and a second union gained 10%, the 43% voting non-union would be shut out of a runoff, under the proposed provision the non-union option would trumpet the union gaining fewer votes.

Another element of the compromise is a public hearing requirement for all substantial NMB rulemakings.

The final two pieces of the deal reached between House and Senate leaders require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to provide a report on union certification procedures within 180 days of reauthorisation legislation being enacted into law, and a GAO audit of the NMB every two years to gauge the efficiency of the board's operations.

FAA has been running on temporary funding extensions since 2007 when the previous long-term reauthorisation for the agency expired.