What is Going on at FAA?

Since our article concerning secret FAA NATCA negotiations was posted various FedSmith authors and editors have gotten emails (other than the comments already posted), saying that we missed all or part of the story. We decided to share this information with our readers.

Since our article concerning secret FAA NATCA negotiations was posted various FedSmith authors and editors have gotten emails (other than the comments already posted) saying that we missed all or part of the story. We decided to share this information with our readers. In an effort to protect the writers, we’ve deleted identifying information but nothing substantive.

It was also interesting to see from the comments to the article we received at the time that many writers thought we were anti-union, anti-Obama, anti-you-name-it but none said the negotiations weren’t going on.

Background Information

One FAA insider was concerned that FedSmith didn’t know all that was going on. So we got an email addressing what that person saw happening at the Agency between 2009 and now with a focus on how FAA ignored the Obama pay freeze selectively:

The sequel to the $660 million in pay raises the FAA gave the 15,000 controllers in 2009 by an illegally appointed “arbitration board” picked by the Obama administration is the FAA turned right around in 2010 and gave the same 3% pay increase guarantees to all the other NATCA non-controller bargaining units who represent various lines of business. This was despite the fact the clear edict had been issued to freeze pay increases. These are also employees who average salaries are over $100,000 a year.

The illegal arbitration panel has been give full authority to determine all wage increases and other impassed items until 2017 to insure it escapes any new administration or review by Congress. Congress has yet to change the FAA law requiring all wage disputes go to Congress and that legislation has been pending for years.

The latest flouting of the law I have heard is the FAA decided to pay the Sunday premium pay to controllers who took leave on that day despite clear Congressional mandate barring the payment of Sunday premium pay (25%) if the employees did not actually work it. Will cost the taxpayers $$ and the list goes on I am told.

…as a taxpayer and student of labor law it was beyond the pale the amount of money being spent to keep the unions happy—and they were never really satisfied. The joke was the salaries for controllers would all reach the Congressional salary cap of $179,500 in the next few years and then it would stop?

Article Reaction and More to Know

While the above quoted writer is squarely of the management bent, the next one has a union perspective.

“What you may not be aware of was that it gained a lot of attention in the FAA. The FAA Chief Operating Officer and his Deputy have been working feverishly behind the scenes to get a deal done with the President and Vice President of NATCA. There were two meetings and a conference call, and a dinner with the four late last month. The FAA budget people are furious that the FAA cannot afford the cost of the unethical, if not illegal contract extension, and the work being done behind the scenes to make a deal on an agreement vice a negotiated contract with members. The cost of the contract since 2009 is staggering and the extension will be even more so. Interestingly, the President of NATCA does not care of the other bargaining members of his union and even told the Deputy Chief Operating Officer this past weekend in a small meeting that the key is to “get the controllers taken care of and I’ll deal with the rest of them. If I can’t get an extension on their contract, I risk losing the election and you will lose cooperation on Next Gen programs including ERAM and STARS.

What they fail to recognize is that both the NATCA controllers being guaranteed a pay raise of up to 3% and the other NATCA members being abandoned is WRONG! Also, the fact that the contract costs millions of dollars over the period of the contract – AFTER the huge increase in costs associated with the 2009 agreement is simply termed self serving corruption. It’s too bad you aren’t talking to the NATCA members and the finance people within the organization. You’d learn all of this rhetoric was not to look out of the NATCA members or the American people, but the FAA air traffic controllers and the #1 and #2 in the air traffic organization. Do a little more homework and you can really make a difference! There’s more to the story, you just haven’t tapped it.”

FYI, ERAM refers to En Route Automation Modernization and STARS is the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System. Both of these initiatives would involve at least impact and implementation bargaining with NATCA to put in place. If what the above writer says is true then FAA is seeking to mortgage these systems with current pay hikes. That’s OK if all that is involved is bargaining but according to this writer, FAA is securing the current union leadership reelection which is an unfair labor practice under the current law which says at 5 U.S. Code §7114 (a):

(a) For the purpose of this chapter, it shall be an unfair labor practice for an agency—
(3) to sponsor, control, or otherwise assist any labor organization, other than to furnish, upon request, customary and routine services and facilities if the services and facilities are also furnished on an impartial basis to other labor organizations having equivalent status;

The union, for its part, may be violating the law as well. 5 U.S. Code 7114 (a)(1) states:

A labor organization which has been accorded exclusive recognition is the exclusive representative of the employees in the unit it represents and is entitled to act for, and negotiate collective bargaining agreements covering, all employees in the unit. An exclusive representative is responsible for representing the interests of all employees in the unit it represents without discrimination and without regard to labor organization membership.

Where’s the DOT IG in All This?

For the record, FedSmith doesn’t have a cadre of highly paid investigators able to dig into FAA or NATCA doings. We rely on our readership for information. DOT’s Inspector General does have such resources. In fact on the Investigations page of his website, it says:

“Employee Integrity Investigations:  The goal of this program is to promote organizational excellence and program integrity by investigating serious employee misconduct.  These types of investigations address a wide range of violations involving employees of the DOT such as, time and attendance fraud, travel voucher fraud, misuse of government property or funds, conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and other prohibited personnel actions.”

So we thank the readers who have provided information. If you have information specifically about this issue, please contact us.

About the Author

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.