FAA Says ATC Talks Stalled...

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Agency Requests Intervention From Mediator

On Monday, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said contract talks have stalled with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), and called for federal mediation to help the two sides reach an agreement. NATCA's current proposal "does not recognize the hard realities of an industry that is in financial trouble, real taxpayer concerns, and the fiscal challenges confronting this agency," Blakey said at a press conference. "After months of negotiation and extensive review of key issues, they just aren't moving on the issues at the heart of the negotiations," she said. Those issues include pay, scheduling, and work rules. "Moreover, NATCA's tabled proposal is out of touch with the current fiscal environment for the FAA and the industry we serve. At the very time when the taxpayer, the agency, and the industry can least afford it, NATCA wants even more money," Blakey said. NATCA's proposals would add $2.6 billion to the FAA's payroll over the four years of the contract, according to Russ Chew, FAA chief operating officer. The union's proposal also would limit the agency's ability to fund hiring of a new generation of air traffic controllers over the next decade, he said. The FAA's request seeks help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to reach a voluntary agreement. The FAA added that NATCA has asked for a 5.6-percent increase in compensation each year for the next four years, a shorter work day (seven hours plus a 30-minute paid lunch break), and 50 percent more sick leave. The FAA says controller pay has gone up 74 percent since the last contract, in 1998. The agency wants to hold the line on increases and to bring in new hires at what it calls "a more realistic" pay scale.