Thousands Of Workers Could Get Unpaid Vacation
The ongoing dispute over
whether the FAA should contract out more air traffic control slots
now threatens the very financial viability of the agency.
The New York Times reports Congress is deadlocked over
the FAA reauthorization bill. That could mean unpaid furloughs for
thousands of FAA employees and an air passenger tax holiday for
"We see ourselves on the brink of closing the doors," Marion C.
Blakey, the agency's administrator, said this week.
There are just eleven days left before the current fiscal year
runs out in Washington. That means there are just eleven days left
for Congress to overcome the impasse. The Times reports
FAA executives are already planning to lay off workers in case the
deadlock isn't broken.
What would that mean for general aviation? Blakey said workers
in the pilot certification program probably wouldn't be laid off.
At least, not right away.
At the heart of the issue is the White House proposal to
privatize more air traffic control towers. The Bush administration
has its sights set on privatizing controller functions at 69
airports nationwide. If the president doesn't get his way on this
one, he threatens to veto any attempt to reauthorize the entire
Ruth Marlin, a NATCA vice president, continuing a very public
campaign of self-direction and obfuscation said, "It is astounding
to me that they would be willing to push so far on the issue,
particularly when they have said hundreds of times they have no
intention of contracting out these towers."
But administration says the privatization of the control towers
saves money at a time when every dollar counts. Air traffic and
indsutry officials say the biggest concerns voiced by NATCA and
others, most of them safety-related, have already been addressed. A
number of NATCA's more inflammatory claims and tactics have been
countered by the FAA and industry associations on a number of
recent occasions and the organization's credibility is said to be
There is a compromise afoot, but the outlook is already grim.
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) has introduced a bill to
extend the current authorization law, which says nothing about the
privatizing of controllers' jobs, until the end of March. But
Republicans won't buy it.
"I'm not going to ask for an extension, because I am right on
this legislation," Rep. Don Young (R-AK), chairman of the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a recent