Congress Could Roll Back ATC Contract

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House Democrats might insert a clause into the FAA reauthorization bill that would force the agency to reopen contract negotiations with air traffic controllers, the Federal Times reported on Tuesday. Unless the two sides make progress this week, the bill "will essentially turn back the clock and reopen the NATCA contract," Justin Harclerode, a spokesman for the Republican members of the committee, told the Times. He said it would also give controllers back pay retroactive to the end of their last contract. However, if the bill does include such a provision, it would be vetoed by President Bush, Harclerode said. He added that the Republican committee members are willing to go along with a requirement for arbritation, but would not support retroactive changes. On Wednesday, the matter was still under discussion, and it appeared that efforts were underway to persuade the FAA to voluntarily reopen negotiations with NATCA as a way to avert the legislative changes. Meanwhile, the House FAA reauthorization bill, which was widely expected to be released last week, is being withheld from going to the floor to give these efforts more time.