Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Arbitrator Upholds Suspension for Inappropriate Communications Made By Controller
The grievant, an air traffic controller, was issued a 10-day suspension for inappropriate communications to pilots. The allegations all revolved around the controller's exchanges with three separate aircraft that all occurred within around 15 minutes of one another. In the first instance the pilot had asked for a slight deviation to the right in order to avoid some turbulence. The arbitrator concluded that the controller was contentious in responding by questioning whether or not the pilot truly needed the slight deviation. In the second instance the pilot asked for another deviation to avoid some turbulence. The arbitrator concluded that the controller's response to the pilot was combative by once again questioning the need for the request. In the third instance the pilot asked for a few seconds deviation to avoid some clouds and potential turbulence, and the request was met once again with a questioning of the pilot as to why the deviation was necessary. The arbitrator did not take issue with the fact that the controller had the right to make the decisions, but was concerned with the manner in which the communications were made to the pilots and that they were inappropriate. In reaching that conclusion, the arbitrator relied extensively on the actual transcripts of the communications. While there had been some earlier conflict between the supervisor and the controller, the arbitrator found that this issue was not initiated by that supervisor, but was the result of a complaint made by one of the pilots. As to the penalty, the arbitrator concluded that the agency had considered the Douglas factors and that the 10-day penalty was within the realm of reasonableness. Based on the above, the 10-day suspension was upheld. However, the agency moved, without explanation, the suspension dates to over the Christmas and New Year's holidays which resulted in a loss of holiday pay. The arbitrator ordered that the grievant be made whole for any of differentials lost due to that move.