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May 2024 New England Bi-Monthly Regional Update #1

From Mick Devine, NATCA New England Regional Vice President

DevineMick 59895 8344 min

Brothers and Sisters,

Summer is rapidly approaching, and May appears to be a very busy month for us. We have U.S. elections, NATCA in Washington, our first ever Controlled Chaos in New England, FacRep meeting, and NATCA Elections, just to name a few. Oh, and the FAA Administrator wants us to change schedules in the middle of summer traffic and right before we negotiate our next year’s schedules—Brilliant!

We were obviously all shocked by the decision the administrator made just two Fridays ago. However, as I write this email on Sunday morning, I am unsure how this will all play out. I would advocate that the issue of controller fatigue be pushed into a Collaborative Work Group (CWG). A CWG that includes experienced Reps who have mid-shifts. Throughout the years, we have all seen the FAA make some poor decisions. For over a decade, FAA accountants told Congress and the ATO how many bodies they need in the operation. They still report us as over 100% staffed.

Pilot and controller crew-rest requirements are not the same thing. I think as we unravel this, they will see that the answer to combat fatigue is not the time between a day shift and a mid-shift, it is the constant six-day workweeks! Fatigue is a real issue, and I agree, we need to mitigate it, but the directed changes do not yield the results they are looking for. And importantly, they are not in the best interest of the controllers working the boards.

I want to thank all of you for taking our regional Poll on any change in the Slate Book contract length. NATCA is a representative democracy and the elected leaders of our Union need to check and balance their own beliefs with those of the members for whom we represent.

I can’t tell you how impressed I’ve been with Jim Basford (A90), Jen Dickinson (BOS), Shannon Lyman (ZBW), and Natalie Belleau (A90) and the work they’ve put into the upcoming Controlled Chaos chat about mental health in ATC. This was their idea that they pitched to me, and the decision to support their endeavor was a simple one. Their planning meetings pop up in my calendar each and every time, and there are a lot of those filling up my calendar. While I’ve only been on one or two calls with them, I can tell you that if you join them for this important conversation, you will be shocked at the work that has been put into this. This will be controllers talking with controllers, moderated by controllers in a pressure-free free, with no upper NATCA involvement or participation. It’s for us and by us. In a crazy world of understaffing, NATCA elections, contract talks, and summer traffic approaching, this is the time to take care of ourselves and most importantly, our mental health. Hope you give it a visit, you won’t be disappointed.

From Scott Robillard, NATCA New England ARVP

Hello NATCA New England! As labor representatives, it is very important to understand the different types of engagements that the Union has with management and how engagement works in each of them. Those engagements take many forms; investigatory meetings, dispute resolution, traditional negotiations, and collaboration, to name a few. But there is something that every representative and Union member needs to protect against, and that is a Union bypass.

A Union bypass is when managers attempt to avoid the elected Union representative, and they try to engage individuals instead. In both private and public sector labor law, it is illegal for management to engage in negotiations over terms and conditions of employment with individual bargaining unit employees. Nevertheless, from time to time, management does exactly that, and NATCA representatives and members should be aware of how to recognize it and what to do about it.

Here is an example: The BWS is negotiated and bid out. A Bargaining Unit Employee does not like the RDOs that were available when it was their turn to bid. After bidding, they walk into the Air Traffic Manager’s office and start a conversation about what they can do to change their RDOs for the entire schedule year.   

When management engages with BUEs directly, they impair the bargaining relationship between the parties, and they are violating the law: 5 USC, Section 7116(a)(5) of the Federal Services Labor Management Relations Act

This law has been codified in case law. Disregarding the Union and attempting to deal with employees individually concerning grievances and personnel policies and practices are acts in derogation of the representative’s right to represent employees. IRS and NTEU, 4 FLRA 488, 497 (1980)

What should the manager do? Well, their options are very limited. They should redirect the employee to the Union Representative or the manager could request the employee leave and return with his Union representative.

Question for New England: would the following agency action be legal under the law?

In preparation for annual schedule negotiations, the ATM posts a memo in the Sign-In/Sign-Out area soliciting their opinion on eliminating some shifts and creating new shift start times for the upcoming BWS MOU negotiations.

What do you think?

To protect your rights, you have to know your rights!

If you have been in an investigation interview, either as a subject or a witness, you have been advised of your obligation to be honest and answer with candor. This is true for any employee. The penalty for lying in an investigation is severe, as are those for lack of candor.

Question: If an Operational Supervisor lacks candor or is dishonest in an investigation of another FAA employee, how is the FAA Conduct and Discipline Order applied?

Answer: Head to the Google machine and type in “FAA Managers Guide to Discipline”.

If you scroll down to page 6, you will find what is below. Keep this in mind as you go through your career. 

Provide Positive Leadership and Serve as a Role Model

As a manager, you serve as role model to your employees by demonstrating a commitment and sense of responsibility to your job and loyalty to the FAA. You are held to a higher standard of behavior than the employees you supervise. With this higher expectation of conduct goes greater consequence when you do not meet these expected standards. Simply stated with all things being equal, a manager would receive a greater “penalty” for his/her failure to comply with a workplace rule than a subordinate would.

Mental Health

From Jennifer Dickinson, NATCA CISM Coordinator, BOS

Summer is right around the corner. Although this is a wonderful season for BBQ’s, vacations, and outdoor adventures, as controllers we know this is the toughest time of the year for us. We are working short, we are working hard, and everyone of us is balancing a personal life with people depending on us to be dialed in. 

It is normal to feel exhausted and frustrated at times as a result of operational challenges and a lack of resources. These are also the times that we need to lean on one another since we understand what we are experiencing as teammates and also utilize our support systems outside of work to ensure that we are creating outlets to manage increased stress. 

Everyone’s management of stress is different. The most important part is that you create healthy ways to minimize the effects of the increased workloads as this allows you to recharge. In contrast, unhealthy stress management can manifest itself negatively in every part of your life, both personally and professionally. It can make a great day seem bad. It can make a simple problem seem like the most difficult thing you have ever experienced. Stress that goes unchecked can make you feel depressed and give you tunnel vision as to what is really happening around you. 

Managing your stress in a positive manner can greatly decrease burn out and can improve clarity. It helps with being able to adapt to the demands that our job requires everyday. Finding ways to reduce stress establishes boundaries between you and the job. This can help minimize how much you allow it to seep in past your duty day.

Lastly, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In honor of this we have launched our first ever controller to controller mental health discussion platform affectionately known as “Controlled Chaos”. We will be discussing not only resources that are available to assist with managing the demands that we all encounter but also establishing from Day 1 our commitment to hear from YOU our peers on what you need and want to know more about. We are very excited to launch this and look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday May 7th at 7pm.

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”

Labor Relations

From Lisa Fulford, NATCA New England LR Coordinator, A90

For the first quarter of the year, we were able to negotiate with the agency the 4 cases that were slated to be heard at PAR (Pre-Arbitration Review). We had one case out of ZBW that the Union agreed to withdraw. We did not believe we would be able to win the case, so we made the choice to withdraw it from the docket. Two cases were settled, one for ZBW and one for A90. Lastly, one grievance out of A90 was sustained and will be heard during quarter 2.

The two grievances that were settled resulted in an OM receiving a briefing from the district manager pertaining to Article 19, section 3 of the CBA. (Weather leave) The other grievance that was settled resulted in the ZBW ATM meeting with an OM to review the ZBW Article 38 MOU to ensure understanding. Unfortunately, the Union’s requested remedy to award the member 8 hours of excused absence was denied.

Quarter 2 will be held in June with grievances about late payment of holiday pay, the 3rd instance of A90 members having received “straight 80” in 2023 due to management error, and denial of Article 45 duties during a mid-shift. There may be a few more, depending on management’s response to step 2 grievances from A90.

Drug & Alcohol Committee

From Jim Basford, NATCA New England Drug & Alcohol Rep, A90

Hello all,

Putting together and getting ready for the “Controlled Chaos” has been keeping me pretty busy. I hope you all join if you have a chance as you’ve probably heard me say this is the most important thing in these updates.

As far as Drug and Alcohol, it has been quiet in New England lately. We are blessed with well educated FACREPs when it comes to drug and alcohol testing. There have been some issues nationally with testing that we are working on but your best course of action is to take the 10 minutes afforded you in the contract to confer with your rep prior to testing. It is much easier to fix discrepancies before/during testing with a local manager that is acting as the site coordinator than to have a conversation with the D.O.T. drug program coordinator. Your reps also know the process well and may catch problems as they arrive if you have them with you. For those who haven’t had a rep present the wait with the collectors outside the bathroom while you provide the sample. The representative is your witness should something come down to a he said/she said situation with the testers.

How are these connected? We can’t help you unless you let is know you need it.
Hopefully see you on the 7th.


Announcements and Information

Join NATCA Reloaded for their monthly offering of NATCA 101 on Wednesday, May 15th at 1:00pm ET. NATCA 101 reviews our Union’s history, the work the Union does for its members, and gives insight into how members can become more involved.

If you’re interested, head to the NATCA portal to sign up: https://portal.natca.org

MyNATCA is the system that contains your contact information such as your mailing address, phone number, and email. You can also enter communication preferences, your spouse’s name, and even your shirt size. By keeping your MyNATCA information up to date, you will ensure you are receiving the most up-to-date information from NATCA.

NATCA utilizes this information for sending out updated Constitutions, Convention materials, and more. Your MyNATCA preferred email address is where you will receive updates from NATCA National and your Local’s listserve. Your contact information is also utilized for the preparation and dissemination of ballots in the upcoming NATCA national election. If you want to have your voice heard, it is critical that NATCA has a way to contact you.

Thank you for taking the time to update your MyNATCA profile! There are two ways to access MyNATCA:

Go to https://my.natca.org and log in.

Through the NATCA Website: https://natca.org. Click the “Members Home” link at the upper right corner. This will take you to a login page where you can enter your username and password for your account. Hover over “My Account” in the upper right-hand corner and click “Profile” to access MyNATCA.

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