'No Deal' Says FAA
After receiving a
“best and final” contract proposal more costly than
what the air traffic controllers union indicated publicly last
week, the FAA ended contract negotiations with the National Air
Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) Wednesday (today).
The union rejected an agency proposal that preserved the current
salaries and benefits for the existing workforce while still saving
taxpayers nearly $1.9 billion over the next five years. The
FAA’s final offer was over $200 million better than its
previous formal offer, all of that directed to preserving the
annual cash compensation of the existing workforce.
“Our proposal is both fair to our controllers and ensures
that the funding, technology, and people will be in place to ensure
safe and seamless travel for the flying public,” said FAA
Administrator Marion C. Blakey.
The FAA will submit its final proposal to Congress which has 60
days to review the FAA’s proposal and NATCA’s
objections. By statute, the FAA is authorized to implement its
proposal if Congress does not act otherwise within the 60 days.
With the help of a federal mediator, both sides agreed on the
vast majority of the provisions in the contract. Negotiations
stalled on the issue of base pay and two types of premium pay that
together have escalated the average controller’s salary and
benefits to over $170,000 annually, a more than 75-percent increase
The FAA proposal does
not cut the salaries of controllers already on the job. It
“grandfathers” the annual salary (base pay and locality
pay) for existing controllers and also provides for future locality
increases and performance pay awards.
The proposal also implements a new pay plan that aligns new
controller salaries with the rest of the FAA’s professional
workforce. The FAA proposal also gives the agency the flexibility
to introduce new safety technology more quickly and to deploy
controllers based on actual air traffic demand.
Significant costs savings are not only achieved through a new
controller pay scale, but by eliminating two premium pays —
Controller Incentive Pay, a second locality pay unique to some
controllers, and Controller-in-Charge pay premium, which has not
proven to reduce required supervision as originally intended.
The union’s pay proposal, while achieving limited cost
savings in the first few years, would revert back to guaranteed
increases and keeps pay scales close to their current levels for
all controllers, essentially deferring expenses, nullifying any
initial savings and retaining an excessive pay structure for the
“The union wants us to mortgage the future of the national
airspace system,” Blakey said.
“Their proposal is a Trojan horse that will spring costs
on the taxpayer at a critical juncture when we need to fund a
safer, satellite-based system and hire a new generation of
controllers and inspectors.”
Although the FAA and
the union are at impasse, Blakey praised the professionalism of the
controller workforce and assured that during the duration of the
impasse the agency and its employees will continue to keep a strict
focus on the FAA’s responsibility to operate the
nation’s aviation system safely and efficiently.
“Our managers and controllers are dedicated professionals.
The public can count on them to carry out their important public
safety mission,” Blakey said.
NOTE: The current impasse
mechanism—established in 1997 as a part of FAA personnel
reform that resulted in the unique requirement for the FAA and its
unions to negotiate over pay—says that all impasse proposals
will be sent to Congress.