FAA Plans Response To NATCA Talks Request

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FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will respond to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) president's formal request that labor negotiations between the two resume. Just what she will say won't be known until sometime today when the FAA releases her letter but the resumption of some kind of dialogue between the two might be taken as a hopeful sign ... others might call it an attempt by the controllers union to stall for time as bills that would affect the outcome of an impasse work their way through legislative halls. On Friday, NATCA President John Carr wrote a conciliatory-sounding letter to Blakey saying he believed that voluntary agreement "remains within the grasp of the parties." At the very least, he said, the two sides should give negotiations one more try "to be able to say with all conviction and honesty that every possible effort was expended by all parties." However, FAA spokesman Geoff Basye told AVweb that he's not sure reopening the talks makes sense. "Nine months of negotiating was more than sufficient time to reach an agreement," he said. "NATCA's dilatory tactics are obvious and the FAA will continue to support the legal framework that has been in place since 1996." The letter came at the end of a turbulent week in which NATCA, in a remarkable example of Washington-style spin, declared that it was accepting the FAA's "invitation" to return to the table. NATCA's spin cycle was revved up by an AVweb story in which FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin said the agency would "welcome" a return to bargaining if the union offered "genuine and meaningful willingness" to move on economic issues. And while there was no such "invitation" in Martin's comments (the way we read them, anyway), the FAA nevertheless felt it necessary to downplay his comments and reaffirm its intention to continue with the impasse process, which began April 5.