Forrey To FAA: Let's Negotiate

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Pat Forrey, who took over as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) president last fall, on Tuesday called for the FAA to return to the bargaining table and work with the controllers to address problems with staffing, hiring and work rules that the union claims threaten air safety. "We're losing controllers at a rate of three per day," he said. "We now have 1,100 fewer controllers than we did in 2003." Further, he noted that more controllers are reaching 20 or 25 years of service, enabling them to retire, and at the same time they are finding fewer and fewer incentives to stay. Under the FAA's imposed "jailhouse work rules," they won't get any raises, Forrey said, and they are being poorly treated. Issues such as having to take vacation time to go out for a cup of coffee, being unable to get time off for family events and vacations, too much overtime and changes in training procedures have all added stress to the job, he maintained. Forrey has been working hard in the halls of Congress to build support for new contract negotiations. [more]

Meanwhile, Tony Vella, who works at the busy Southern California TRACON, said the FAA has changed how open positions are filled. "Instead of posting the positions and bringing in experienced controllers from other facilities who want to move up, we are getting new hires with zero time," he said. "It's like taking high-school baseball players and sending them up to play with the Yankees." Vella said the problem is not with the quality of the recruits, who are graduates of college or FAA training programs. "But it's a disservice to them to start them at this level of traffic, which is extreme and nonstop," he said.