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November 2021 New England Bi-Monthly Regional Update #1

From Mick Devine, NATCA New England Regional Vice President

Oftentimes you will hear remarks from members over things like “the Union only defends multiple DUI members” or “the Union only defends members who can’t get to work on time.” The question that should be asked is: Is it the duty of the Union to defend those BUEs or to represent those BUEs? Sometimes the answer is both, but more often than not the answer is that the Union is representing the BUEs, not defending them.

In cases where a BUE is in trouble for one thing or the other, a NATCA’s role is mainly to ensure that the member’s due process is followed. When a member has a DUI, the Union isn’t weighing in on whether or not DUIs are okay or “he/she wasn’t that drunk.” The Union is ensuring that the FAA’s investigation was handled in accordance with all laws, rules, and regulations. The Union analyzes the Douglas Factors to ensure that all were taken into consideration with regard to punishment. The Union is ensuring that the punishment fits within the parameters of the FAA’s Table of Penalties. The Union is searching for egregious errors made by the FAA in their process, as the FAA generally tries to take the easiest way out of its responsibilities. Nonetheless, a member’s failure to follow the rules does not give the Agency carte blanche to break their own rules in their role as judge and jury. That is how the Union represents its members in discipline cases.

We oftentimes hear the same thing when it comes to training. When a BUE goes in front of a Training Review Board, NATCA is generally looking at whether or not the BUE was given every opportunity to be successful. It is true, this job is not for everyone. If anyone could be an air traffic controller, we certainly wouldn’t make the salaries we do. Here’s the rub though: the FAA has a clearly-written guide on how to administer training. If they have failed to follow the 3120.4, have they given the BUE every opportunity to be successful? What if the BUE has proven time and time again to struggle to progress in their training, but the Agency continuously fails to follow their own Order? What is the Union to do then? The Union does not make determinations on whether or not someone can be successful, they make determinations on whether or not they were given a fair shot. The ironic part is that the purpose of a TRB is to determine whether or not the FAA did their job well in determining whether or not the BUE can do their job well. How does the Union allow the FAA to terminate the training of a BUE when they haven’t even done their job correctly in getting to that point? It’s a very simple concept—if the FAA followed their own Order correctly and the BUE still can’t get certified, there isn’t much the Union can do. However, if the FAA does not follow its own Order correctly and the BUE can’t get certified, the Union cannot take a position that it is okay because we don’t think the BUE can certify anyway. That most certainly isn’t our role.

Naturally, this same question could be asked about the vaccines. Fighting the vaccine mandate could really only take place in three arenas—contractually, legislatively, or legally. NATCA, along with many federal labor unions, made a determination early on that a mandate was not illegal either through law or contract. Legislatively was not a timely option—if it was even an option at all. Thus, NATCA’s role going forward is to represent its members and negotiate the impact and implementation of the mandate. Our members have a legal right to request reasonable accommodations based on religious or medical needs. Medical accommodations are handled through the Rehabilitation Act and the religious requests are handled through the EEOC. NATCA is not defending its membership but rather representing its members by ensuring that their legal right to request these accommodations are heard on a case-by-case basis and are ruled upon consistently. That involves negotiating a repeatable and defendable process to request one and attempting to negotiate what those reasonable accommodations look like if approved. If one member gets their request approved and another member gets theirs denied for the exact same request, NATCA will get involved. NATCA has no interest in getting involved in the decision-making of whether to approve or deny such requests. Again, this mandate is owned by our employer, and they own the decision-making. These requests are not new; they have been happening for years. NATCA will ensure the FAA is following all its rules, regulations, and laws appropriately.

In regards to what your leadership was doing in October, I was in Washington, D.C. from October 3-5 at the national office working with two other RVPs in this term’s new process of having RVPs in the office from Monday through Thursday. The RVPs are working on ways to better the Union and its members going forward and to assist in the pop-up activity that is common during our current environment. The RVPs in the office work as a conduit from the President and Executive Vice President to the rest of the RVPs and hold weekly calls with the rest of the RVPs. This is a new process that is now only two months old and it is providing tangible benefits to the organization and our new leadership.

On October 8, I was on a call with the White House as part of my role on the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council. We are working in collaboration with the DOL and the DOD to create Artificial Intelligence programs which assist members of the military with finding good union jobs based on their skills developed in the military.

From October 11-14, I was in Boise, Idaho for our NEB meeting. We are having shorter meetings than last term, but having them more frequently. As a rule of thumb, we are having NEB meetings every three weeks. This is key to setting up a structure and process in the vision of the newly elected leadership.

On October 18, I worked with Central Region RVP Aaron Merrick to help get our newest national committee, the Communications Committee, organized and on the right track. This Committee began as a way for all the regional communications teams to communicate and coordinate amongst themselves. This Committee is transforming into a group that will provide RVPs with the information they need to communicate with their members in a way that they see best for their region.

On October 22, I worked with Scott Robillard, Curt Fischer, Bryan Krampovitis, Kyle Szary, and Jake Detwiler to start to create a negotiations workshop for our FacReps and other leaders that we will present in December during our final FacRep Meeting of 2021.

On October 26, I met with the Union Veterans Council to discuss coordinating all of the AFL-CIO’s unions’ Veterans Day events. Coordination between the unions allows for some unions to get involved in other unions’ plans to help create bigger, more noticeable events.

Labor Management Relations

From Kyle Szary, NATCA New England LR Coordinator, ZBW

The current Regional PAR-level grievance snapshot is as follows:

1 grievance remanded back to the facility level (pending resolution)
4 grievances slated to be addressed during the fourth quarter Pre-PAR meeting
5 TOTAL (+4 from October update)

2021 Q4 Pre-PAR

The New England Region fourth quarter Pre-PAR meeting with be held virtually on Friday, Nov. NATCA representatives will include ARVP Scott Robillard, ARVP Bryan Krampovitis, myself, as well as observer Kevin Coeyman (ZBW FacRep-elect). Grievances not resolved at this meeting will proceed to the official Pre-Arbitration Review (PAR) hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for the first week of December.

New England LMR Team Shuffle

The New England Region LMR team was reorganized last month, and moving forward will be comprised as follows:

Mick Devine (BOS) – RVP
Scott Robillard (A90) – ARVP/Lead
Bryan Krampovitis (BDL) – ARVP/Advocate and GRT
Kyle Szary (ZBW) – LR Coordinator 
Jake Detwiler (ZBW) – LR Coordinator Mentee
Matt Morgan (BOS) – Advocate
Joe Allen (ZBW) – Advocate
Kevin Coeyman (ZBW) – Advocate
Steve Brown (PWM) – Mentee
Nicholas Marangos (A90) – Mentee

From Scott Robillard, NATCA New England ARVP

On Sept. 3, 2021, NATCA New England LR team met with the Boston District for a Pre-PAR (district level dispute resolution) meeting to discuss five grievances. Two of the grievances dated back to the beginning of the pandemic, well before the “rules” were clear on what employees and the Agency were to do when a family member was exposed to COVID-19 and whether the employee should come to work, stay home on sick leave, or be on excused. 

At the table, the Union was able to have two members’ sick leave restored via a settlement agreement. 

I’d like to use this example to talk about why and where the Union will sign settlements and why and where the Union will sign sustainments. To your NATCA New England LR team, there is a significant difference. I will start with a sustainment.

NATCA New England approaches a sustainment as a matter-of-fact statement that a mistake was made, and the Agency is correcting their mistake. As professionals, we all strive for continuous improvement. To be successful with our aspirations of continuous improvement we need to be open and honest about how we performed. For your NATCA New England LR Team, the sustainment of a grievance is no different than a Performance Record of Conference (PROC), an open and honest assessment with an eye on continuous improvement. Acknowledge the mistake and correct it.

Considering the Agency does not want a NATCA member to be ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid of a PROC, the Air Traffic Manager or General Manager should not be ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid of a sustainment. We either did well or we didn’t, but own up to it.

Settlements are a different matter and are used in New England when the facts aren’t exactly clear, when the Agency rule or contract language does not specifically cover an issue, or when employees (managers and/or bargaining unit) were trying to do the right thing, but a negative outcome resulted.

The next Pre-PAR (district-level dispute resolution) is scheduled for November 5, 2021. There are 4 cases to be discussed, all from ZBW. Your LR Team has had Prep sessions on October 22, 29, and November 1, 2021.

To protect your rights, you must know your rights!

What happens to a Non-Prime Time Leave (NPTL) request that is made after all bid slots are taken during bidding and the posting of the schedule (28 days in advance)?

To break this down, lets first look at some definitions:

Prime Time Leave (PTL): This is the leave you select in round one of bidding.
Non-Prime Time Leave (NPTL): This is leave that is selected or requested following the bidding of PTL but prior to the posting of the BWS.

Spot Leave: This is leave requested during the period of a posted watch schedule.  

Situation: In your Article 24 MOU during the Prime Time period (May 15-September 15 and December 23-January 3), there are 3 leave slots per day. During all other periods, there is 1 leave slot per day. During bidding, all slots were taken. At the conclusion of bidding, you request 10 consecutive days in February. When is the agency required to approve that leave?

This situation is very common, and it is also one where you must read several things together. They are:

  • Article 24, Section 13
  • Article 32, Section 2
  • Your facility Article 32/34 MOU for the Basic Watch Schedule (BWS)

Article 24, Section 13 says a couple of very important things. First, it says that your leave SHALL be approved/disapproved based on staffing and workload, and the approval/denial cannot be conditional. The section points the local leaders toward Article 32, Section 2 when it uses staffing and workload as the threshold to approval/denial cannot be conditional.

Article 32, Section 2 says “for the purposes of this Article, staffing guidelines are defined as the number of employees to meet the forecasted workload requirements for the core and ancillary shifts.” Contained within the Article 32/34 MOU is a hard number for staffing. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume the staffing on the day and night shifts to be 5 employees each, for a total of 10.

If there are 11 employees scheduled to work the calendar day, the first employee in the order of request shall be approved because the forecast workload, as defined by Article 32, Section 2, has been met.
The last question is when does the Agency have to approve or deny the request? Article 24, Section 13 requires that the NPTL be approved/denied as soon as practicable after the request is made AND is NOT subject to conditional circumstances. What does that mean?

It means that the Union can’t claim another employee will be certified or will return to the BWS to meet the staffing need, nor can the Agency claim that they need to wait until the date is closer to make sure a recourse isn’t lost from the BWS. Simply said, when the request is made, count the employees who will be scheduled for the shift. If that total is higher than the Shift Staffing Guideline number in the Article 32/34 MOU, approve the leave. If it is equal to or less, deny the leave. 

Remember, these rules for how your leave is processed and approved or denied are agreed to by both parties. Operational Supervisors, Operational Managers, and Air Traffic Managers do not have the latitude to deviate from the contractual language simply because they are uncomfortable or don’t agree with how leave is processed.

Office of Workers’ Compensation

From Steven Spiller, NATCA New England OWCP Rep, BOS

Howdy New England! I’ve begun to see a semi-expected uptick in OWCP claims related to COVID-19 in New England. The most common questions I’m seeing are in regards to timelines. The DOL is very unforgiving on missed deadlines, so if you want to maximize your benefits, it’s wise to be aware of the requirements. The “injury date” for COVID-19 claims will be the date of the last shift you worked in the building before your positive diagnosis. You can be on leave or other absence in between, but the date the DOL will use to determine your eligibility for COP is based on your last worked shift. The CA-1 must be filed within 30 days of that date to be eligible for COP per 20 C.F.R §10.205.

Sadly, there have been some losses in the Bargaining Unit due to COVID-19, which has led to discussions in the National Committee regarding the death benefit from work-related injury as well as when you might want to delay making an OWCP claim. I won’t get into that here, but if you want to hear more about that process or have a more serious case of COVID-19 and don’t know when you should file your claim, please reach out privately (steven.spiller@natca.net or 832-721-9343).

Speaking of the National Committee, a worthwhile NATCA Update went out a few days ago. Rather than repeat too much of that here, take a look at https://www.natca.org/2021/10/27/office-of-workers-compensation-program-owcp-update/ if you missed it.

Stay safe and healthy! 

Training Update

From Lisa Fulford, NATCA New England Training Rep, A90

During the last month, the New England Region has been consistently at the top of the list for the average number of hours trained as well as the percentages of trainees in a training status for the National Training Initiative (NTI). There have been several position certifications as well as a few new CPCs within our region. Congratulations to those who have achieved certification(s) and a BIG thank you to your OJTIs for helping you be successful!

Your facility training reps are reviewing the data weekly with your ATMs, and they are having collaborative discussions about the training process and consistency of training. I understand there are numerous challenges, including staffing, in a number of our facilities. I am working with the district to schedule more OJTI classes, as well as setting up an OJTI cadre class by the end of the year. I also review the weekly data and spreadsheets and work with management to ensure an accurate report of weekly training is being sent to the Eastern Service Area.

Currently, we have OJTI classes scheduled for November and December. We will be planning another class for January and will continue to schedule classes in the spring. Recurrent Training is starting up again, and the local facilitators will be training in a few weeks. Expect to attend briefings in the next couple of months, as well as complete the newest eLMS for Recurrent Training.

Please let your FacRep and Training Rep know if you would like to be more involved in training within your building as well as in the region. We are looking for more OJTI cadres and will have a need for more TRB-trained members.

As always, feel free to email me with questions at lisa.cyr@natca.net or email the NNE Regional Training Reps at TEBWtraining@gmail.com

NATCA Benefits

NATCA Benefits Committee NBC logo large

Did you know that NATCA offers a wide variety of benefits to its members, including discounted rates and concierge-level services? If you are planning a trip, purchasing a vehicle, taking the family to a movie, or even buying a house, click here https://www.natca.org/benefits/ to see what benefits are available to you!

Featured NATCA Benefit: Ford X Plan Pricing

Ford X-Plan Pricing is an exclusive savings program available to NATCA members and their household members.

  • You pay one low price: no negotiating needed
  • Significant savings: get X-Plan savings in addition to most other publicly offered programs
  • Exceptionally easy to use: clear, simple procedures and identification requirements
  • Vehicles may be registered or titled in the name of a business (using federal tax ID number)

For more information visit the Ford X-Plan section on the NATCA Benefits website here: https://www.natca.org/benefits/home-auto/ford/

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