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Sun, May 06, 2007

FAA Reauthorization Bill Includes Provisions To Revamp Labor Negotiations

Supporters Say Would Restore "Balance And Fairness" To Process

Those focusing on Thursday's legislation to reauthorize funding for the FAA may want to take a second look at the inclusion of provisions to strengthen the agency's labor negotiation process.

The bill would strengthen the collective bargaining rights of FAA employees, restoring what sponsors call "balance and fairness" to the agency's labor negotiations process, reported Government Executive.

As ANN reported, the bill was introduced May 3 by Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Trent Lott (R-MS). A Senate aviation panel plans to address the bill on May 16. A hearing is scheduled for next week.

While the FAA commended lawmakers' work on the reauthorization, the agency did not address the labor relations language.

With the FAA facing a surge of retirements in its air traffic control workforce, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), asserts it will be unable to recruit sufficient numbers of replacement controllers unless it negotiates a new contract.

The reauthorization legislation would force the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service (FMCS) to intercede if the FAA failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement with its labor unions.

And should the agency and union fail to reach an agreement through FMCS, negotiations would be referred to an independent three-member arbitration board, which, after hearing from both sides, would determine the final terms.

The bill states: "The arbitration board shall take into consideration the effect of its arbitration decisions on the [FAA's] ability to attract and retain a qualified workforce and the (FAA's) budget."

Although the FMCS currently assists in contract talks with the FAA, it does not necessarily mean the two parties come to an agreement, said NATCA spokesman Doug Church.

Binding arbitration, as the reauthorization bill would require, he said, is necessary in negotiating a contract amenable to both parties.

"That is to our liking, and that is what should happen in the event of impasses in the future."

NATCA is still hopeful, however, that congressional intervention will allow the union to return to talks with the FAA and reach agreement on the contract imposed by the agency last year, according to President Patrick Forrey.

"We are trying to work with the Commerce Committee to get back to the contract negotiating table with the FAA and have fairness restored to the collective bargaining process," Forrey said.

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

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