Behind The Scenes -- Money, And A Power Struggle

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The FAA seemed struck by the almost cordial nature of the union letter and top officials met on Friday to discuss it. Basye told AVweb that while the agency "appreciated" the letter, it didn't agree with Carr's characterization of the final days of mediated bargaining. While Carr seems to think that progress was being made toward a settlement, Basye said NATCA's final offer was actually a step back from earlier positions and that both sides had agreed there was no point in going on. The fundamental issue is pay scale for newly hired controllers and the FAA says it's $600 million apart from NATCA on economic issues. In his Friday letter, Carr says the union will present a new financial package if talks resume. As is frequently the case in Washington, this issue is like a duck on a pond -- most of the real action is below the surface. NATCA is spending millions of dollars on an advertising campaign aimed at convincing the public (and hence their elected representatives) that the impasse process is flawed. Legislation is pending in both houses that would replace the impasse process with binding arbitration but getting it passed by the June 5 expiration of the current impasse (if Congress doesn't intervene by then, the FAA's last offer will be imposed on the union) might be difficult. Convincing the FAA to rescind the current impasse would buy the union more time to lobby for the legislative change. We'll all see today what the FAA has to say.