US - Airlines cheer Bush in controller battle

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CD
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US - Airlines cheer Bush in controller battle

#1 Post by CD » Tue Dec 20, 2005 7:41 am

Airlines cheer Bush in controller battle: Thousands fired in 1981 strike.
Government seeks to freeze base pay for controllers, lower it for new hires


MONTREAL GAZETTE
12/20/2005

As U.S. airlines cheer him on, President George W. Bush is heading toward a confrontation with air traffic controllers over wages, the same issue that triggered a 1981 strike in which thousands were fired.

Carriers like Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp., already buffeted by high fuel costs and stiff price competition, could see their $16-billion annual tax burden increase if Bush fails to get controller costs in line. The Federal Aviation Administration and the controllers are at odds over the government's attempt in contract talks to freeze base pay for current controllers and lower it for new hires.

The airlines say their rising tax burden in recent years has added to their already formidable problems and they can't pass any added costs on to passengers because customers won't accept fare increases large enough to cover them.

"We're 100 per cent behind the administration's efforts to get the costs in line, and that has to be addressed in this negotiation process," said John Meenan, executive vice president of the Air Transport Association, a Washington lobbying group for major airlines. Increases in operating costs have "greatly increased pressure on the industry, and that's continuing," he said.

While the airlines have been forced to cut jobs and negotiate pay reductions, air controller wages have risen 74 per cent since 1998 under a contract negotiated with the Clinton administration, the FAA said. The agency has a powerful weapon in the current talks: federal law allows it to impose its last, best offer over union objections if negotiations deadlock.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is so concerned about that prospect that it has hired a well-connected lobbyist, former Republican National Committee chairperson Ed Gillespie, to plead its case in Washington.

It has ruled out a strike like the one in 1981 that prompted President Ronald Reagan to fire 11,350 controllers en masse.

"The administration is going to attempt to exploit a loophole in the law to avoid collective bargaining," said John Carr, the union president. "We intend to close that loophole."

FAA administrator Marion Blakey - who once worked as a special assistant to Reagan - has already used the law once, imposing a contract in July on 1,900 workers also represented by Carr's union. While Blakey said she hopes for an agreement with the controllers, she won't rule out a unilateral solution.

"It was necessary before," Blakey said in an interview. "We'd use it again, if it was necessary. That is what the law requires. You at some point have to come to conclusion."

The 15,000 current controllers earn $128,000, excluding benefits, according to the FAA. Under Blakey's proposal, new hires would be paid under a system in place before 1998, when controllers made $95,000, including benefits. Controllers are seeking a 5.6-per-cent pay increase, according to the FAA.

The negotiation recalls Reagan's confrontation with controllers in that "the precedent set in this contract will shape the future in terms of workforce costs," said Robert Poole, director of transportation studies for the Reason Foundation, a libertarian group in Los Angeles.

Now, as in 1981, the administration wants to clamp down on the FAA budget, said Ron Taylor, 59, a former controller in Stuart, Fla., who lost his job in the

Reagan-era walkout. "It's deja vu," said Taylor, who heads a group of former strikers. "The agency is going to force this deal. They've had 24 years to put this together, and they're not going to give up the Reagan legacy."

The FAA hired 8,705 controllers in the two years after the strike, including today's union president, Carr. The aging workforce will bring a retirement wave, with the FAA expecting 11,000 controllers to leave by 2014. The agency plans to hire 12,500 new controllers in the next decade at the lower pay Blakey seeks.

Talks, which began in July, have broken off for the holidays and will continue Jan. 9.
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#2 Post by Dockjock » Tue Dec 20, 2005 10:54 am

According to a recent article in FLYING magazine, there is an imminent controller shortage in the US. I'm not current on that issue on the US side of the border, but perhaps the usual tactic of reducing the pay of the working grunt isn't the best way to attack what is more than likely a systemic problem as opposed to a pure wage problem.
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#3 Post by cyyz » Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:11 am

Dockjock wrote:According to a recent article in FLYING magazine, there is an imminent controller shortage in the US. I'm not current on that issue on the US side of the border, but perhaps the usual tactic of reducing the pay of the working grunt isn't the best way to attack what is more than likely a systemic problem as opposed to a pure wage problem.
Indeed a shortage, they hired NEW people in 81, it's 2005 you do the math 25 years service and you can retire, that's why they want to start new hires at lower wages... ALL the new hires, which will be LOTS of them...

But fear not, no real "shortage" Riddley is pushing out 100's a month, and so are other institutes that offer Controller training, worst case scenario they end up using the military again.
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#4 Post by split s » Tue Dec 20, 2005 10:35 pm

Do any US controllers go to Cornwall for training?
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#5 Post by grimey » Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:25 pm

Not as far as I know. I've seen US military controllers there on multi-nation NATO training exercises, but no civilians, and the military guys weren't there for their initial ATC training. They do train civilian controllers for serveral other countries, though. A small number of Canadian controllers may have moved to the US to work as controllers after they got their license, but this isn't the norm.
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#6 Post by split s » Wed Dec 21, 2005 11:23 am

Cool, thanks! I thought there were other countries, wondered about US.
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#7 Post by FamilyGuy » Sat Jan 28, 2006 4:22 pm

If you're going to re-visit history, do it right. That all happened pre-deregulation and certainly pre 9/11.

Not a snowballs chance in hell the US GOV would ever be dumb enough to actually do that again. Well maybe G W but not his advisors.

Do you have any idea how much more traffic is moved since those days???? Any idea how depleted the MIL is??? Any idea the role of Civ ATC now-a-days?

You think giving them a raise or even status quo would cost alot, try running a DRASTICALLY reduced MIL service for ANY length of time. That would put even Southwest out of business.

Hollow threats and posturing, but secretly the FAA has to have a nasty brown streak running down the inside of its trowsers.....
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#8 Post by IFRATC » Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:08 pm

Its extremely amusing today that we are finally seeing the true consequences of the stupid decision making done by one Ronald Regan some 25 years after 1981. Seemed like a hard line stance back then. Well anyone hired post 1981 when there was mass hiring done to fill the voids are now due to retire!!!! Yes, the FAA cut their operating costs over the years, but in turn hiring took a massive hit in the 1990's. Well the government think-tanks failed to recognize the massive exodus in attrition that has now come upon them. This after years of NATCA telling the FAA to invest in hiring. This wage freeze proposal and step down in salary for new entries is a knee jerk (Stupid) reaction by the Bush administration knowing full well the amount of dollars they are going to need to spend in training to fill this new void. Instead of burdening the poor airlines with increases in operating costs, controllers who will now have to work even more hours of overtime as attrition rises, are expected to take a wage freeze!?! Makes one want to retire even sooner don't you think? My $0.02 worth....

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#9 Post by cyyz » Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:28 pm

cpl_atc wrote:
cyyz wrote:But fear not, no real "shortage" Riddley is pushing out 100's a month, and so are other institutes that offer Controller training, worst case scenario they end up using the military again.
Except that in the US, that 2 year ATC college diploma thing is required just to apply to the FAA. The FAA still does further training beyond that diploma prerequisite. No idea what their annual training capacity is (the FAA's).
*stands corrected*
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