In Washington: It's The Money, Stupid

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While issues like modernization, contracting out and working conditions have been discussed, these negotiations were (like most negotiations) about money, pure and simple, according to Blakey. "The differences between us are not minor," Blakey said. She said the agency is determined to bring controller salaries in line with other civil servants both for practical and philosophical reasons. She said controller salaries are a major factor in the FAA's spiraling costs and that controllers, in general, make far more money than other FAA employees. She said the FAA's offer won't result in any existing controllers losing any pay but it will start new hires at substantially less. The union says her math is wrong and cuts contained in the offer will send thousands of controllers into retirement, affecting safety. In a statement, the union claims that the FAA's budget actually harbors pay cuts of up to 40 percent (apparently through changes to shift differential, location and other pay bonuses) and that's enough that for about 25 percent of the workforce it actually makes more sense financially to retire. Carr insists up to 4,000 controllers who might otherwise be happy to keep working will head for the door if the package is forced on the union. Miniachi and Blakey said Carr is misrepresenting the FAA position and no existing controllers will lose income. "We are not talking about anyone taking a pay cut," Miniachi said.