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NATCA, FAA Far Apart In Contract Talks

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey says flight delays would increase dramatically and modernization efforts would slow to a crawl if the agency accepted the contract proposal presented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Union last week. In an exclusive interview with AVweb at EAA AirVenture on Thursday, Blakey said the union negotiating team is asking for a 5.6 percent annual wage increase that would result in the average pay package for a controller topping $200,000 within four years. She said the controllers are also seeking a seven-hour work day, minus an hour for lunch and time for other breaks. FAA officials say that would result in a 12 percent productivity reduction. NATCA officials were unavailable for comment in time for our deadline. The agency entered the talks with a series of news conferences claiming that its chief funding source, the Airline Trust Fund, is declining (something NATCA disputes) and that the current controller contract is not sustainable. Blakey says the average compensation package is now at $164,500, including overtime and benefits (but excluding pension contributions) and the increases proposed by the union would eat up money that would go towards modernization and facility improvements. NATCA has maintained that overtime costs are a direct result of understaffing.