FAA, NATCA Sniff The Wind

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The FAA says it's willing to go back to the bargaining table with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association as long as there's some movement on the fundamental issue of pay for new hires. The FAA wants to impose a two-tier pay system that would start the 12,000 or so new controllers to be hired over the next 10 years at rates much lower than the pay received by existing controllers. The pay for new controllers has emerged as the key issue in the events that led to the FAA declaring impasse in the dispute. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the agency would welcome renewed efforts at a voluntary agreement. "We need to see some movement on the pay scale for new hires," he told AVweb. We contacted NATCA repeatedly for comment but President John Carr was unable to respond in time for our deadline. The FAA declared impasse last week after receiving a final offer from the union it says falls $600 million short of the agency's requirements for the contract. "We welcome the opportunity to go back to the bargaining table," he said. "But we need to see some genuine and meaningful willingness to close the $600 million gap we have." Declaring an impasse sends the contract to Congress to rule on a settlement. If Congress fails to act within 90 days, the FAA's last, best offer will be imposed. Last week Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) urged the two sides to get back to the talks. "I believe that the FAA moved too quickly in declaring an impasse in the ongoing negotiations with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and sending the matter to Congress. An impasse is not in the best interest of either party -- politicizing the negotiations and putting the question of a reasonable settlement at risk. I believe they should instead come back to the negotiating table to find an equitable resolution," said Snowe in a news release.