ATO, Labor Leaders Stress Importance of Collaboration
Friday, March 16, 2012
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a series of jointly produced articles by ATO Communications and NATCA highlighting collaboration.
Last week ATO Chief Operating Officer David Grizzle, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) President Tom Brantley gathered to stress the importance of collaboration.
“The reason I am insisting that we in the ATO do our work collaboratively is that I absolutely believe we will make better decisions that way,” Grizzle said during a joint teleconference that was intended to reemphasize to both managers and their union co-workers what collaboration is and why it is important.
“We are seeing a lot of good results,” added Brantley, who explained that early communication is essential for successful collaboration.
Likewise, Rinaldi called for a sustainable collaboration process to be used regardless of who is in positions of leadership in the future.
“This is the right track to be on,” Rinaldi said. “The goal is to make this process sustainable and show tangible benefits.”
Successful collaborative activities already going on include the PASS-Tech Ops Joint Leadership Team, which was formed in 2010.
“We took the time up front to build the trust before we worked the issues,” Brantley said. “Safety has been our top priority from the beginning,” noting the ‘Protect Yourself, Protect the NAS’ initiative.
With NATCA, there have been a number of successes using Article 48, which allows for management and labor work groups. For example, Rinaldi highlighted collaborative efforts on facility pay level readjustment and grading, the placement of new controllers, Flight Deck Training, professional standards and the fatigue MOU.
Rinaldi also noted the collaboration on Terminal Automation Modernization and Replacement (TAMR) program – with controllers at the same table with the vendor and management in developing the system.
“We aren’t waiting until a plan is fully developed to involve the folks who will have to execute and maintain the new technology or new process or new procedure,” Grizzle said. “Collaboration is when we bring in the perspectives of our front-line colleagues – the folks who have to operate and maintain the thing – and get their contribution on the front end. There is no way that we can expect a co-worker to own a solution when they have had no involvement – and therefore no investment – in the development of the solution.”
Notably, Grizzle and Rinaldi highlighted the collaborative efforts to put the En Route Automation Modernization, or ERAM, back on track. It’s now “in really good shape,” Rinaldi said.
Grizzle emphasized that collaboration would be especially important as the FAA moves to incorporate NextGen technologies that cut across more domains and facilities.
“Collaboration isn’t about playing nice together in the sandbox,” Grizzle said. “It’s about producing better outcomes. We do better when we consider and incorporate the ideas of a diverse group of people.”
Critically, collaboration has improved safety, Grizzle said, noting the quantity of data collected through ATSAP helps guide safety improvements.
Grizzle added that collaboration does not absolve management of the responsibility to make good decisions.
“Ultimately – management and labor representatives alike - are all accountable for success or failure,” Grizzle said. “Collaboration to management does not mean cave. It will never be an excuse for a bad decision.”
To make collaboration a success, “our folks need to understand you have to be engaged,” Brantley said.
“We want to be engaged in every aspect of making the system safer,” added Rinaldi, who emphasized the focus on collaboration at the facility level. “It’s working and we have to continue to do this on a full-time basis.”