John Carr, the former president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, says high-level talks are under way to get NATCA and the FAA back to the bargaining table with the aim of hammering out a negotiated settlement. In his blog last week he wrote that a tentative agreement has been reached to return to the table in July to settle outstanding issues. Anything that cant be resolved will go to binding arbitration, Carr said. NATCA spokesman Doug Church said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and the new NATCA president Pat Forrey have been discussing a return to the bargaining table since last August, but perhaps to no avail. "Nothing has changed," Church said in an e-mail to AVweb. The FAA did not respond to our request for comment. Carr says the deal was brokered by Rep. Steve LaTourette, D-Ohio, and his sources tell him the FAA is going along with the return to bargaining because it is afraid Congress will directly intervene in the dispute and compromise its ability to autonomously handle its own labor relations. In April 2006, the FAA declared that negotiations were at an impasse and, after 90 days went passed without Congress intervening, it imposed its concept of what was fair on the union. To this day, NATCA refuses to call the deal a contract, opting for the term "imposed work rules." The imposed deal created a lower starting wage for new hires, implemented a dress code, made changes to overtime and banned the playing of radios in facilities. The FAA has insisted its deal is fair, but Carr says the threat of legislative intervention is driving the process, which he predicts will be stacked heavily in favor of the union.