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Should I Participate in a FAA Survey or Study?

What are your rights and responsibilities the next time your supervisor asks you to participate in a survey or a study of important ATC-related issues, such as NextGen or fatigue? Technology and changes in the future of air traffic control resulting from improved technology will continue to have a major impact on the way professional air traffic controllers do their jobs.

Article 49 “Studies of Employees and Their Working Conditions” and Article 50 “Surveys and Questionnaires” of the 2003 CBA provide that controller participation in studies and surveys is voluntary. The contract also requires the Agency to notify the Union at the national level and provide a copy of the study or survey in advance, in order to allow NATCA to have meaningful input into the way in which the study or survey is developed and conducted. Sometimes the way you ask the question determines whether you get the correct answer.

In recent years, the Agency has refused to notify the national Union as required by the contract and has attempted to prevent the Union from being involved on the front end of these types of research efforts. Because employee participation is strictly voluntary and there is no penalty for refusing to participate, NATCA has advised employees not to participate unless the Agency agrees to notify the Union at the national level. Many of the technology issues that the Agency is currently researching, such as NextGen, are simply too important for the future of the air traffic control profession to allow the Agency to continue excluding the Union from these efforts. We believe that the best way to proceed, and the contractually mandated way, is for the Agency to include the Union at the national level as a full partner in researching and developing new technology initiatives. NATCA has many subject matter experts with valuable expertise to bring to the process.

When you are notified by your facility that the Agency is conducting a study or survey that affects the future of your profession, the question to ask your Facility Representative is, has NATCA been notified at the national level and is NATCA recommending that bargaining unit employees participate in the study? If the answer is yes, of course you should participate and cooperate in the study or survey. If the answer is no, NATCA’s position is that bargaining unit members should not participate until such time as the Agency follows the contract by notifying the national Union in advance and allowing NATCA’s input.

There are serious implications for the future of your profession, and it is important to get the right information the first time, which can only happen with the full participation of the national Union as a partner in change. Remember, the next time the Agency announces a study or survey, ask your FacRep whether NATCA recommends that bargaining unit employees participate.