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FAA’s Off-the-Street Mass Hiring Undercutting CTI Students' Work, Creating Class System, Jeopardizing Collegiate Program's Future - (4/26/2007)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Why should a prospective air traffic controller spend many thousands of dollars at college pursuing a degree that leads to a job with the Federal Aviation Administration when they could simply respond to the FAA’s many current “help wanted” ads on MySpace, Craigslist or Facebook – without needing that college degree – and land the same controller job? 

That’s the question many students and graduates of degree programs in the Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) are asking as they sit next to fresh-off-the-street FAA hires at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City and wonder how their $18,732 salary is going to cover their student loan payments. According to students and National Air Traffic Controllers Association officials monitoring the situation, this new “class system” of hires has led to questions, confusion, frustration and a lowering of morale and enthusiasm. 

“The FAA’s massive recruiting effort, despite its cheerful talking points and rosy public statements, has angered students who were told to go through the CTI program to get hired at a cost of thousands of dollars,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Patrick Forrey said. “Our fear is that those great schools will lose their students if they can get hired by simply applying online or at a local job fair. This is a serious problem because CTI students come to the agency armed with the experience needed to comfortably fit into the incredibly demanding on-the-job training program at their first air traffic control facility, greatly increasing their chances of successfully becoming a fully certified controller.” 

One way the FAA could begin to solve this problem is by offering CTI grads the chance to participate in a student loan repayment program. Interestingly, Ventris C. Gibson, the FAA assistant administrator in charge of personnel management, told reporter Stephen Barr of The Washington Post for a story in the Apr. 23 issue that the agency is taking the step of starting such a program for student loans. Gibson also said the FAA plans to offer child-care subsidies for employees at air traffic centers. 

However, when NATCA proposed the creation of both a student loan repayment program and a child-care subsidy program during contract negotiations in early 2006, the FAA never responded until the final day of mediation, and then rejected both proposals “on their merits.”  

“We have seen nothing from the FAA on these two issues except in Ms. Gibson’s new comments to The Washington Post,” Forrey said. “We offered a student loan repayment program and child-care subsidies at the contract table and the FAA rejected them. This now constitutes an unfair labor practice and another example of bad faith bargaining.” 

However, Forrey added, the important thing is the well-being of the new hires and their ability to succeed, develop a passion for the important work of air traffic control and feel good about their work environment and employer as they are handed the responsibility of being the next generation workforce. All of those things are currently on the decline. 

“This is another example of the FAA’s lack of both integrity and planning and its business-first attitude,” Forrey concluded. “They have caused a rift between two classes of new employees. Add to that a list of 2,000 trainees the FAA promised a certain salary upon full certification only to cut it by 30 percent with last September’s imposed work rules, and the 12,000 fully certified controllers working today who will never see another pay raise and you have a recipe for disaster.”

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