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Nation's Controllers to Bring Dual Message to Capitol Hill: Hire Next Generation of Controllers Now and Denounce Privatization - (5/16/2002)

WASHINGTON - Seizing on the slogan, “The Future is Now,” the National Air Traffic Controllers Association will host its annual legislative conference next week. Controllers will focus on highlighting the immediate need to hire thousands of new controllers in anticipation of a coming wave of retirements and speaking out against the reckless idea of privatizing the air traffic control system.

The conference is Monday, May 20 and Tuesday, May 21 at the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave., N.W. (202/737-1234). At 10 a.m. on Monday, the controller staffing issue takes center stage, with a discussion led by NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President Joe Fruscella and Bill Peacock, the Federal Aviation Administration’s director of air traffic services.

NATCA believes the FAA must immediately begin hiring and training the next generation of controllers to have adequate staffing levels in place to handle the increased traffic growth and the opening of new airways and prepare for impending retirements. Talk of privatization, contracting out or franchising air traffic control services remains alive, in startling ignorance of the failures of privatized systems in both Great Britain and Canada. The government has already bailed out Great Britain's system, part-privatized just last July, to keep it from collapsing and more money infusion is needed. U.K. controllers and staff are threatening to walk out if that money comes from Serco, a company intent on cutting jobs and pay to ensure profitability. Meanwhile, the Canadian system's own chief executive says his company is facing a "major crisis" as it deals with a $145 million revenue shortfall and the looming possibility its controllers might strike.

On Monday at 2:15 p.m., NATCA will take a closer look at the U.K. situation, with a discussion which will include Joe McGee of the International Transport Workers Federation, Shane Enright, the ITF’s director of aviation services and Lawrence King from National Air Traffic Services, the U.K.’s privatized air traffic company. Also on Monday, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Michael Jackson will speak on the state of air traffic.

Tuesday’s lineup of speakers begins with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., followed by House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Reporters wishing to attend are asked to check in at the NATCA registration desk, which will be located outside the lower level ballroom at the Hyatt Regency. More information is located on NATCA’s web site.

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