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NATCA Pledges Its Support for Australian Controllers - (8/30/2002)

WASHINGTON – U.S. air traffic controllers today pledged their full support for controllers in Australia who are in the midst of an ongoing dispute with their employer, Airservices Australia, a government-owned business.

Members of Civil Air, the union representing Australia’s 1,100 controllers, “remain frustrated and angry,” that 18 months of negotiations have not produced a solution to the dispute and the core issues remain unsolved, according to union president Ted Lang. The dispute centers around fatigue issues, personal leave, responsibilities and career path. In addition, controllers have endured a two-year wage freeze despite Airservices Australia reporting healthy profits.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association Executive Vice President Ruth Marlin said her nearly 20,000 members were not shocked to learn of the long-running battle faced by their Australian colleagues to maintain basic working conditions, given that Airservices Australia operates as a business.

“Advocates of air traffic control privatization hold Australia up as a model which the U.S. should follow,” Marlin said. “However, the reality of this situation makes it clear that profits should never come before the safety of the flying public.”

Marlin stated, “Let us make ourselves very clear – we stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Australia and we will offer them every support possible. We take this opportunity to acknowledge the active support of Australian controllers during previous disputes in the United States and we pledge to do so in return.”

Australia has an international reputation for aviation safety and there is escalating concern the Australian government is deliberately downgrading air traffic control operations.

“The Australian government has to appreciate the value of its air traffic controllers and the stress and demands of their profession,” Marlin said. “Our organization is taking an active interest in developments and will remain in communication with our colleagues in Australia.”

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