WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its largest union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), have concluded a challenging mediation process that has produced a landmark labor agreement.
After years of strained relations, the joint decision to engage in mediation was an important first step, and today’s proposed agreement represents a milestone on the final road to settlement, which awaits ratification by union members. An independent arbitration team today released a decision on a handful of issues not resolved by the mediation, which settled more than 100 of the issues in dispute.
The Obama administration recognized that not having a mutually agreed upon contract for the air traffic controllers had created an untenable situation and that ensuring the safety and efficiency of the nation’s aviation system made fair resolution a must.
Members of NATCA will have 45 days to ratify the many agreed-upon issues in the proposed agreement. The five issues decided by arbitrators, including compensation, are not subject to ratification by members.
The agreement provides employees with greater flexibility in their work schedules, childcare support, a new grievance review process, and a variety of other gains. At the same time, it affords FAA the flexibility to more effectively redeploy labor to congested airports using Controller Incentive Pay. The agreement also restores a more equitable pay standard, to benefit new hires as well as veterans nearing retirement. The associated costs will be phased in over the three years of the contract, which helps ensure that FAA will not have to tap into its budget for critical capital investments in order to handle increased personnel costs.
“This marks a new day between the FAA and the air traffic controllers as we move forward with a spirit of cooperation,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We are hopeful that once the review and ratification are complete, we can accelerate our efforts to adopt NextGen, the next generation air transportation system.”
"This tentative agreement marks a turning point in the relationship between the FAA and its air traffic controller and traffic management employees,” said Patrick Forrey, president of NATCA. “We wholeheartedly thank President Obama and Secretary LaHood for addressing the tumultuous labor relations issues at the FAA by establishing a fair process that has allowed the parties to negotiate and arrive at a collective bargaining agreement that NATCA members now have an opportunity to ratify. We look forward to working with the FAA and the aviation industry and community in a collaborative process to develop and implement the much-needed next generation aviation system."
Both parties are pleased that they were able to come together in a concerted effort to resolve differences, producing a three-year agreement that was negotiated in a fair process.
As the union progresses with ratification and the agency conducts its internal review, both sides are confident that this mediated solution will prove to be the basis for a solid foundation that enables everyone to put aside past differences and move forward to rebuild trust between the FAA and its employees. The process serves as a model, in fact, for future contract negotiations.