Controller Contract Negotiations In Question
Nobody said it was going to be easy but a negotiated settlement between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association seems remote at best. Not only are the two sides far apart on the overriding issue of controller pay, they can't even agree on whether or not they're still talking. About all they can agree on is that there will be some kind of meeting on Tuesday. What is set to take place at that meeting is a matter of widely varying opinion. "We don't consider the talks to be broken down," FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb on Saturday. Martin also hinted the purported end of negotiations on Friday was less than spontaneous. He noted that NATCA had issued a news release on the developments barely 20 minutes after the meeting broke up, saying it was "the fastest turnaround" for a press release he's ever seen. Negotiations began eight months ago and there was the customary optimism on both sides and expressions of good will. Things fell apart quickly with several public displays of the kind of acrimony that was widely expected to come from the talks. The union accused the FAA of stage-managing the talks to reach a stalemate so that it could declare an impasse and invoke an almost unique power that allows it to ask Congress to rule on the dispute. If Congress doesn't make a decision, the FAA's last offer becomes the new contract. The union battled back by convincing members of both houses to introduce bills that would strip the FAA of the power to impose a contract. Both bills are in the early stages of consideration.