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Challenges Mark NATCA's 15th Anniversary; Staffing, Privatization Schemes Take Center Stage - (6/18/2002)

WASHINGTON - Celebrating 15 years as the exclusive bargaining representative for the Federal Aviation Administration’s 15,300 air traffic controllers, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association will mark its anniversary on Wednesday, June 19. From a few controllers dedicated to improving aviation safety to a national labor powerhouse whose air traffic expertise is recognized worldwide, NATCA has grown and matured while maintaining its founding slogan: Safety Above All.

On June 19, 1987, NATCA was certified by the Federal Labor Relations Authority to represent controllers. Today, NATCA is a family comprised of 18 different bargaining units and its membership - in the spirit of the 15th anniversary - recently raced past the 15,000 level. NATCA President John Carr praised the membership as “the best collection of experienced, talented and dedicated employees this nation has to offer. While the administration strips controllers of their inherently governmental designation, I want air travelers using our National Airspace System to know they have the largest, safest and most sophisticated system in the world and it’s maintained by the hardest working aviation safety professionals on the planet.”

Carr also saluted NATCA members’ work since Sept. 11. “In the days and weeks and months since then, our members have conducted themselves with grace and skill, and their contributions to the safety and security of our nation will never be fully known, nor will they ever be forgotten,” he remarked. “Every single one of our bargaining units, from Aerospace Medicine to Aircraft Certification, to the Engineers and Architects, the Traffic Management Coordinators, the Airports Division and the folks from Logistics, Finance, Accounting and Information Services, have worked tirelessly behind the scenes and below the radar to ensure the well-being and protection of our nation’s citizens.”

NATCA’s anniversary was marked by many state and local governments across the country, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New Hampshire Governor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen, Alaska Governor Tony Knowles, Amarillo, Texas Mayor Trent Sisemore and the cities of Phoenix, Charlotte, San Diego and Little Rock, Ark.

To prepare for the next 15 years, a bill was introduced on Tuesday by Congressman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., which provides an incentive for controllers to postpone their retirements. The Federal Air Traffic Controller Annuity Computation Act of 2002 would aid controllers under the Civil Service Retirement System to allow them to receive a two-percent annuity for years of service after 20. Federal firefighters and law enforcement officers under CSRS currently receive this same annuity. This comes as great news to NATCA, which continues to sound the alarm for the coming wave of retirements over the next decade, beginning with the possible exit of 5,000 controllers in the next five years.
 
“As the General Accounting Office report yesterday stated, we need to begin work today and this bill is a step in the right direction,” Carr said. “Considering half of our controller workforce will be walking out the door and into retirement before the end of the decade, I’d say the time is definitely now to hire the next generation.”


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