NATCA Deal Guaranteed

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A collective agreement covering the FAA's air traffic controllers could be in place in early June. The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers announced Tuesday that formal mediated talks between the union and the agency began Monday. Former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey will lead the mediation panel, which also includes Richard Bloch and George Cohen, both experienced mediators. "One of my highest priorities, since coming to DOT, has been to resolve this issue," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said when he announced Garvey's appointment. An agreement will be reached one way or another because the mediation panel has been directed by both sides to make binding recommendations on any issues not settled in negotiations. A media blackout has been imposed for the duration of the talks.

Controllers have been working under conditions imposed when contract talks reached an impasse three years ago. The imposed rules were met with bitter resentment by many experienced controllers who opted for early retirement. But as the last federal election drew nearer and the winds of political change were felt, the situation calmed and the associated rhetoric also dropped off.