NATCA Turns On Charm, Turns Up Heat On FAA

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National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr has offered to meet personally with FAA Administrator Marion Blakey to try to achieve a negotiated settlement in the current contract impasse. Last week, Blakey rejected the union's call for a return to the bargaining table, saying the two sides are too far apart on money issues. In a letter to Blakey on Friday, Carr says he'll deliver on earlier promises to get the talks moving on key issues. "I am offering to meet you unconditionally at the bargaining table, and at that meeting I will direct my negotiating team to bring you real and significant progress," he wrote. The text of Carr's letter was released shortly after a NATCA news release claimed majority support in the House for bill that would virtually disarm the FAA's impasse strategy. Under current legislation, after the FAA declares an impasse, as it did on April 5, Congress has 60 days to rule on a settlement. If it fails to come up with a ruling (or simply ignores it) then the last best offer made by the agency is automatically imposed. There are now bills before the House and Senate that would radically change the impasse process and require binding arbitration as a last resort. NATCA says 229 house members, including 59 Republicans, now support what it calls the "Fair FAA" Act. The union is lobbying feverishly to get the bill passed by both houses before the June 5 impasse deadline but Carr insists a negotiated settlement is his first choice.