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FAA, Air Traffic Controller Contract Talks Break Down; FAA Rejects $1.4 Billion in Taxpayer Savings, Controllers Warn of Retirement Wave, Urge Congress to Act - (3/31/2006)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Contract talks between the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association broke down today as the FAA rejected an offer that would have saved taxpayers $1.4 billion. A drastic pay cut now looms as the FAA attempts to force its offer on employees, ignoring bipartisan Congressional calls for an agreement that serves the flying public and the taxpayer.

The FAA’s offer now means veteran controllers would be penalized for remaining in their vital jobs, forcing them to retire. By the end of next year, one in four controllers – over 4,000 – could retire, worsening an existing staffing crisis and leading to fewer and fewer controllers guiding more and more planes.

“We offered to meet the FAA’s stated goals and they said no. We offered $1.4 billion in taxpayer savings and the FAA still said no. We received bipartisan Congressional support for an amicable resolution, and still the FAA said no.” said John Carr, President of NATCA. “And now, because the FAA has chosen an ideological battle over fairness and safety, we’re facing a desperate situation where one in four controllers will be penalized for staying on the job. More than ever, it’s time for Congress to act now to protect the safety of the flying public.”

NATCA announced a major public education campaign, urging lawmakers to support the FAIR FAA Act, which would stop the Agency imposing this contract. The “FAIR FAA Campaign” will combine television advertising with local, media and grassroots efforts to educate the flying public across the country about the FAA’s dangerous plan and call on lawmakers to take immediate action to prevent it. More information is available at www.FairFAA.com.

Background:

The FAA’s negotiations with NATCA were in progress from July 2005 until today. Despite the fact that most of articles in the talks were agreed to in just 9 months – the fastest progress in the FAA’s history of talks with its employee unions – the Administration has called impasse in an attempt to impose its contract on controllers.

The FAA believes that in the event of a breakdown in negotiations – an impasse – the Agency can send the contract to Congress, providing it the opportunity to get involved. If Congress chooses not to act, then the FAA believes it can unilaterally impose its last, best contract offer on its employees, essentially gutting collective bargaining rights.

The bipartisan legislation currently under consideration by Congress would create a three-step process to restore accountability and fairness to the negotiating system:

1. Mediation
2. Then on to Congress where they’d have to act in order for the contract to pass
3. If all else fails, binding arbitration

NATCA is also calling on Senators to vote to send the contract – and the FAA – back to the negotiating table to secure an agreement that benefits both the flying public and taxpayers, not just politicians in Washington.


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