Bargaining Through Press Releases

The FAA and NATCA don’t agree on the best way to wind up labor negotiations.

Apparently the labor negotiations are not going well at the FAA. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association have issued duellng press releases on the current state of bargaining on a new contract.

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to complete contract negotiations this year. According to the agency, under the current schedule for negotiations the parties meet several days a week with several weeks in between the negotiations.

The agency proposes that the parties meet five days a week and try to complete the negotiations by Christmas of this year.

The agency has also suggested bringing in a federal mediator to assist in the bargaining. Moreover, the current approach is expensive as the parties are meeting in different cities around the country.

The agency wants a new contract as it says the current agreement is too expensive. It has proposed bringing in new employees at lower salary rates and also wants to restore some of the management rights the agency relinquished in the past negotiations.

The union doesn’t agree with the agency’s proposal to speed up the bargaining by meeting more often in one location. It prefers to have arbitrators come in and settle or dictate the final contract.

The agency contends that the original contract was to have cost $200 million but the actual cost has exceeded one billion dollars. Moreover, according to the agency, the current union proposal would cut down on the amount of work done by controllers, increase salaries and benefits, and bring the average compensation for controllers to over $200,000 within four years.

From the tone and content of the competing press releases, we can assume the negotiators are not close to reaching a final agreement.

It is not uncommon for contract negotiations in the federal sector to take months or years for completion. The FAA/NATCA contract is different in that the agency and union have the authority to bargain on a wider variety of topics than is done in most other agencies. Thus, the stakes are higher for both parties and, no doubt, there is pressure on the leaders in both organizations to get an agreement that is the most beneficial.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47