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FAA and Air Traffic Controllers Sign 2016 Agreement: A FedSmith Prediction Comes True

by Bob Gilson |

In an earlier article, I discussed rumors which now appear to be true.  Those rumors involved a sweetheart deal between FAA’s leadership and the National Air traffic Controllers Association. 

The whole FAA/NATCA affair (they are now apparently and unashamedly in bed with each other) involved a fight over the previous administration implementing an agreement that NATCA didn’t like.  When the Democrats got in, FAA appointed a panel (outside of any law anyone I know is aware of ), reversed the former administration and entered into what many call a sweetheart deal with the union.  CNN reported a joint release on Wednesday March 14 announcing an extension of this contract with certain extra cookies from 10/1/2012 until July 1, 2016.

A website called StuckMic.com ran the following from NATCA’s Leadership ( my excerpt):

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just returned from FAA headquarters and now are extremely proud and excited to share with you this great news: We have signed an agreement to extend our existing collective bargaining agreement that covers our air traffic controller, NOTAM and TMU bargaining units!

The extension begins on Oct. 1, 2012 and ends on July 1, 2016.

We are issuing a joint press statement with the FAA, which reads:

…The extension is the Red Book in its entirety. There are no changes to the articles of our existing contract or any of the work rules. What is new is a memorandum of understanding covering pay, which we have attached to this email. Under the MOU, annual pay increases are tied to the federal government’s general schedule increases and step increases. For example, bargaining unit members will receive the same annual increase that federal employees receive under the general schedule. Additionally, unless step increase are denied to federal employees statutorily, this new agreement allows for a 1.6 percent longevity increase in raise and/or payments as specified in the MOU.” (My Emphasis)

According to the Washington Post,

“Pay raises have been a point of contention along with certain other provisions. During negotiations in 2006 the Bush administration imposed its last offer as the contract after declaring an impasse.

The Obama administration rescinded that decision in 2009 and sent the parties to mediation, where an agreement was reached. The contract revised policies in such areas as flexible work schedules, child-care support, grievances and redeployment of controllers to airports needing more staff. Those provisions will continue under the extension.”

The Post article alludes to an Agency appointed apparently union friendly panel which implemented NATCA’s desired contract in 2009.  Someone in Congress was paying attention since FAA’s new legislation includes the following provision prevent such deck stacking in the future.  Of course, if they didn’t follow the old law why should they follow a new one?:

SEC. 601. FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.

Section 40122(a) is amended–

(1) by redesignating paragraphs (3) and (4) as paragraphs (4) and (5), respectively; and
(2) by striking paragraph (2) and inserting the following:
`(2) DISPUTE RESOLUTION-
`(A) MEDIATION- If the Administrator does not reach an agreement under paragraph (1) or the provisions referred to in subsection (g)(2)(C) with the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees, the Administrator and the bargaining representative–
`(i) shall use the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to attempt to reach such agreement in accordance with part 1425 of title 29, Code of Federal Regulations (as in effect on the date of enactment of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012); or
`(ii) may by mutual agreement adopt alternative procedures for the resolution of disputes or impasses arising in the negotiation of the collective-bargaining agreement.
`(B) MID-TERM BARGAINING- If the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service under subparagraph (A)(i) do not lead to the resolution of issues in controversy arising from the negotiation of a mid-term collective-bargaining agreement, the Federal Service Impasses Panel shall assist the parties in resolving the impasse in accordance with section 7119 of title 5.
`(C) BINDING ARBITRATION FOR TERM BARGAINING-
`(i) ASSISTANCE FROM FEDERAL SERVICE IMPASSES PANEL- If the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service under subparagraph (A)(i) do not lead to the resolution of issues in controversy arising from the negotiation of a term collective-bargaining agreement, the Administrator and the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees (in this subparagraph referred to as the `parties’) shall submit their issues in controversy to the Federal Service Impasses Panel. The Panel shall assist the parties in resolving the impasse by asserting jurisdiction and ordering binding arbitration by a private arbitration board consisting of 3 members.
`(ii) APPOINTMENT OF ARBITRATION BOARD- The Executive Director of the Panel shall provide for the appointment of the 3 members of a private arbitration board under clause (i) by requesting the Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to prepare a list of not less than 15 names of arbitrators with Federal sector experience and by providing the list to the parties. Not later than 10 days after receiving the list, the parties shall each select one person from the list. The 2 arbitrators selected by the parties shall then select a third person from the list not later than 7 days after being selected. If either of the parties fails to select a person or if the 2 arbitrators are unable to agree on the third person in 7 days, the parties shall make the selection by alternately striking names on the list until one arbitrator remains.
`(iii) FRAMING ISSUES IN CONTROVERSY- If the parties do not agree on the framing of the issues to be submitted for arbitration, the arbitration board shall frame the issues.
`(iv) HEARINGS- The arbitration board shall give the parties a full and fair hearing, including an opportunity to present evidence in support of their claims and an opportunity to present their case in person, by counsel, or by other representative as they may elect.
`(v) DECISIONS- The arbitration board shall render its decision within 90 days after the date of its appointment. Decisions of the arbitration board shall be conclusive and binding upon the parties.
`(vi) MATTERS FOR CONSIDERATION- The arbitration board shall take into consideration such factors as–
`(I) the effect of its arbitration decisions on the Federal Aviation Administration’s ability to attract and retain a qualified workforce;
`(II) the effect of its arbitration decisions on the Federal Aviation Administration’s budget; and
`(III) any other factors whose consideration would assist the board in fashioning a fair and equitable award.
`(vii) COSTS- The parties shall share costs of the arbitration equally.
`(3) RATIFICATION OF AGREEMENTS- Upon reaching a voluntary agreement or at the conclusion of the binding arbitration under paragraph (2)(C), the final agreement, except for those matters decided by an arbitration board, shall be subject to ratification by the exclusive bargaining representative of the employees, if so requested by the bargaining representative, and the final agreement shall be subject to approval by the head of the agency in accordance with the provisions referred to in subsection (g)(2)(C).’.

In my last article, I asked who was looking out for the interests of the American people in all this.  Apparently that’s still a good question.

All of the above that’s not a quote is my responsibility.  The behavior at FAA is theirs.

Based on discussions with some Agencies, and sponsored by RGS, I and some colleagues plan to offer a “Practitioner’s Course in Labor Relations” and a “Practitioner’s Course in Employee Relations” focusing on advising managers, using proven tools to enhance case management, and matters of interest to the specialist, advocate or attorney with a basic grounding in these programs. We plan to offer these around the country and in D.C. If you have an interest in learning more, please let me know. You can do so using the “contact” link at the bottom of this article. RGS has also given us the go ahead to do an update for practitioners this spring in the D.C. area. I’ll follow up with more information as arrangements firm up.

© 2014 Robert J. Gilson. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Robert J. Gilson.

About the Author

Photo of Bob Gilson

Bob Gilson

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.

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