...And Good Luck To That Mediator

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FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb yesterday that while "progress is a subjective term," there has been virtually no movement on the substantive issues of the contract, in particular salaries and work rules. He said it is the FAA's goal to reach a voluntary agreement, which would be in everyone's best interest. But by calling for a mediator, the hope is to catalyze some forward motion. Ultimately, both sides need to agree to mediation, he said, and so far NATCA does not want to take that step. "We hoped that a mediator would get the two sides more fully engaged," Martin said. "The heart of it is, can we sustain the current contract, plus increases, plus improve the system and hire 12,500 new controllers?" It's been years since relations between controllers and the FAA have been this contentious, and there is a long way to go yet before any kind of settlement is reached. The very real issues that beg to be addressed -- the looming surge of controller retirements, lagging technical adaptations, and questions about how to finance the system will affect users of the national airspace for years to come. Reuters reports that, "If an impasse is declared by either side or by a federal mediator, the FAA can put its contract proposal before Congress for review. If lawmakers failed to act on the FAA's proposal within 60 days, the agency could then impose it unilaterally."