ATC Contract Spat Continues With Both Sides Apparently Drifting
The FAA and its unionized air traffic controllers continue to
bicker over a new contract -- but instead of coming closer together
on the fine points, the two sides appear to be drifting farther
apart. Now, the FAA wants daily negotiations, while NATCA demands
arbitrators be brought in to settle things.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr
Monday proposed that both NATCA and Federal Aviation Administration
contract negotiators agree to allow private arbitrators to settle
any issues that the parties cannot reach agreement on independently
"This might prove to be the most expeditious format for
resolving any disputes because, as a voluntary agreement between
the parties, the arbitrator's decision would be binding upon us,
with no potential for protracted legal proceedings," Carr said.
Carr's call for arbitration came in the wake of FAA Deputy
Administrator for Strategic Management-Labor Relations Joe
Miniace's request for daily contract talks in hopes of wrapping up
the negotiations before Christmas.
Currently, there is no end date to negotiations and talks are
held in one-week blocks only three or four days a week with a two
to three-week hiatus in between. Negotiation sites have included
Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC, losing
negotiation time to travel.
"We want to move quickly because the taxpayer cannot afford this
contract much longer," said Joe Miniace, the FAA's deputy
administrator for strategic labor-management relations. "Spending
more time at the table will help us reach a balanced agreement
But in a letter to Miniace, Carr
rejected Miniace's calls for establishing an arbitrary and
artificial ending date for negotiations as well as his other
proposals as another example of the agency attempting to release
itself from a signed agreement. This time, Carr said, Miniace's
proposals violate the parties' ground rules agreement that was
signed before the current negotiations began.
Carr called a letter from Miniace last week that outlined the
agency's proposals, "unique in its novelty; that is, a written
offer to renege. Imagine my surprise. The FAA is famous for
negotiating in good faith, signing purposeful agreements, and then
running like hell from them. We were thinking perhaps the agency
would try something new for a change. We call it, 'living by your
signed agreements.' I encourage Miniace to at least become vaguely
familiar with the ground rules agreement. We will be using it for
the remainder of these negotiations."
Carr also said he senses an effort by the agency to rush toward
an "artificial and illegitimate impasse."
"While the union wants to mindlessly 'roll over' several
provisions from the previous contract, many of these had
concessions that should never have been made," said Miniace.
"I am at a genuine loss to comprehend this false urgency on the
part of the agency when it is an established legal precept that an
impasse does not destroy the collective bargaining relationship,"
Carr said. "I must presume that Miniace, as a seasoned labor
relations professional, is as aware as I that an impasse is not the
end of collective bargaining –- rather, as a recurring
feature in the bargaining process, impasse is only a temporary
deadlock or hiatus in negotiations –- and that he will
enlighten others at the agency of the futility and folly of
attempting to rush toward impasse."
Carr concluded his letter to Miniace by stating that he believes
a voluntary agreement is within reach. But, he added, "I think that
private mediation/binding arbitration is the most efficient way to
conclude any subjects on which the parties cannot reach