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Tale Of Two Towers? FAA, NATCA Issue Dueling Statements.

NATCA's Take

By ANN Senior Editor Pete Combs

Dismayed and "saddened" by the FAA's statement on upcoming contract talks with unionized air traffic controllers, NATCA President John Carr said Thursday the FAA is ignoring the desires and recommendations of its workforce.

"[The FAA] is taking probably the worst course of tactics in a collective bargaining environment," Carr told ANN during a reporter's conference call, "and that's just to impose their will on an unwilling workforce. This is a very, very serious problem."

In its version of the prelude to negotiations, the FAA stated managers want to restore "basic management rights that will allow for more flexible and efficient use of its workforce."

Carr thinks that statement has a lot to do with the labor dispute at the NY TRACON. As ANN reported in June, the FAA conducted a 60-day investigation into problems at the facility. At the end of the audit, the FAA reported union control over schedules and work rules led to huge, unnecessary expenditures in overtime.

"For them to... say 'the mean bully union took our facilities away' is ludicrous," Carr said. "If you can show me where you've given control of the schedule to the union, control of overtime to the union, control of overtime to the union, I'll write you a check for a million dollars."

So where's the beef?

"I believe the agency is engaged in a very aggressive public relations campaign leading up to contract negotiations. I believe they have undertaken to portray their workforce as overpaid... underworked and as having taken advantage of their largesse to steal overtime, to work less than our allotted number of hours and to do all sorts of various other nefarious things," Carr said. "I believe it is all hype."

Carr pointed to what he called a failure on the FAA's part to modernize the hardware in the air traffic control system, calling the advanced automation system effort an "utter failure" that wasted $7 billion tax dollars. If only the FAA had listened to the controllers, he suggested, the system might have been created in a more workable fashion.

There is now, even before these talks start, talk of an impasse. If that happens, there could be... another impasse. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has said she wants to let Congress decide the matter. Carr says the entire issue should be resolved just like any other labor standoff involving government workers.

FMI: www.natca.org, www.faa.gov

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