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Michael P. McNally, President , National Air Traffic Controllers Association - (6/15/1998)

Michael P. McNally, President National Air Traffic Controllers Association Statement Announcing New Labor Agreement Between NATCA and the Federal Aviation Administration First, I'd like to thank the administration, Secretary Slater and Administrator Garvey on the successful outcome of this agreement. Prior to the arrival of Secretary Slater and Administrator Garvey at the FAA, most of us in NATCA thought we were headed down an all too familiar path - one of stonewalling, head-butting and total lack of trust - ultimately leading to a protracted war between us. The same issues that had faced air traffic controllers for decades were still there. With contract negotiations staring us in the face, we expected the "same-old, same-old," and we set our course for the duration. We were prepared for the long haul. But a funny thing happened on the way to the war. Jane Garvey did something no other administrator had done: She listened to controller concerns, weighed our evidence against the rhetoric of the past years, and she offered leadership and guidance to the FAA's negotiating team. From the time she stepped into the negotiations fray, we at NATCA became cautiously optimistic that, at long last, our issues would be validated, and a process to rectify the many challenges ahead of us could begin. Today, we are here because those hopes became reality. The administrator deserves credit for heading off a potentially contentious and ugly situation. Frankly, I think once she saw the preponderance of data we'd compiled over the years, she became impressed by the enormous body of work NATCA members had compiled - all of it supporting the need for a new tiered classification system for air traffic controllers. Many men and women in NATCA worked on this complicated project for over six years - at untold expense to them, their families and the organization. I want to thank them for their unselfish, tireless efforts. And, I also want to thank their FAA counterparts who were involved the last three years. Without their dedication, none of us would be standing here today. We would not be rolling out a new classification standard that reflects a fairer methodology of what controllers do - based on more than the mere volume of air traffic, but other complexities that, to date, have not been considered in their performance. Things like the numbers of and the configuration of runways; the mix of aircraft types; oceanic flights; and the air traffic density, to name a few. This classification standard has been a long time coming. Originally attempted in the seventies, it has taken over 25 years to more accurately classify an air traffic controller's work. During these negotiations, we also made headway on a chronic, thorny discrepancy: The numbers of air traffic controllers needed to safely separate aircraft. It has been long obvious to the public, Congress and the aviation community that NATCA and FAA were far apart on staffing. In these negotiations, we nailed down an acceptable number and projected guaranteed growth over the next few years. For the first time, the number of controllers is protected, and both NATCA and the FAA have memorialized a principle for future growth. These numbers could be higher, but we believed it's best to start here, and work toward mutual agreement on additional staff as the years and the nation's growing air traffic dictate. Finally, the NATCA negotiating team - headed by our former president, Barry Krasner - worked long and hard to achieve new standards for employees under personnel reform. We fully appreciated many eyes would watch as we led the way in the federal sector. Still, it was - and is - important that we do the right thing for employees, for the agency which has the mandate of safety first, and for the public. Mr. Secretary and Administrator Garvey - on behalf of FAA's controllers and our negotiating team - I want to acknowledge your leadership during these very tough but productive talks. Based on your desire to turn the agency around, we are hopeful that we'll usher in the 21st century with a strong working relationship with you and your staff. The beneficiaries of this type of collaborative relationship will long outlive us here today. Again, congratulations to you and your team.


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