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FAA Now Firing Controller Trainees Without Cause in Union-Busting Intimidation Move - (4/28/2008)

CONTACT:   Doug Church, NATCA National Office, 301-346-8245; Phil Barbarello, NATCA Eastern Regional Vice President, 516-381-6424; Tom Thompson,NATCA Indianapolis Center Facility Representative, 317-331-3423

WASHINGTON – Not content to simply drive out nearly one-fifth of its total workforce in the 603 days since imposing draconian work and pay rules, the desperate and wounded Federal Aviation Administration has returned to its union-busting playbook and taken aim at its most vulnerable employees – new controller trainees who can be fired without sufficient cause and without appeal rights in the first year of their employment.

Twice in the past several weeks, the FAA has fired trainees at two of its busiest en route radar centers despite the absence of any evidence of incompetence or misconduct. Their apparent crime? Displaying signs of strength and popularity among their NATCA union peers that could one day translate into union leadership or activism positions.

NATCA President Patrick Forrey sent a letter last week to FAA Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer Hank Krakowski to express his outrage over these firings. You can read the letter by clicking here.

          Here is a summary of what occurred:

  • Nicholas Gigliobianco, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.: FAA Air Traffic Manager David E. LeCates fired Gigliobianco on Feb. 29 after the trainee was denied an excused absence on Feb. 22 by an FAA training manager despite a snowstorm that prevented him from making a safe and timely commute to work. The same training manager was part of a group of non-essential employees sent home due to the storm that day shortly after Gigliobianco had his request to stay off the roads denied. This, after several other employees (including supervisors) were allowed to remain home. Gigliobianco, in fact, had spun out in his first and only attempt to drive on the slick roads. NATCA protested the firing and the FAA agreed to take the matter under investigation. But Krakowski upheld the decision on March 27, just one day before Gigliobianco would have completed his one-year probationary period. 
  • Dan Cline, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center: On March 21, Cline had just finished a training session and was on what he thought was a routine break. But he was paged to the front office, fired, asked to sign some administrative items, forced to surrender his FAA ID and escorted from the facility. The FAA has refused to give a reason for Cline’s dismissal and the agency’s human resources department has rejected NATCA’s request for Cline’s files. By all accounts, he was hard working and developing well as a trainee. The process to correct any deficiencies in his performance was circumvented by the FAA, which cut down a promising career and delivered a jarring blow to the life of a young man. All for reasons appearing to do with sending a message to other trainees.

“What happened to these young men is despicable because we know the FAA waited for the flimsiest excuse possible – in the 11th hour of their probationary period, no less – to get rid of employees they simply did not like, despite a flawless performance record,” Forrey said. “This is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to intimidate these employees’ peers, discourage union involvement and activism and silence dissent of the agency’s imposed work rules and demoralizing workplace conditions.

"This will have a chilling effect on future new hires. After spending thousands of dollars on collegiate training programs and going into debt to qualify for this profession, only to be summarily dismissed, they may not be willing to risk having a termination from federal service on their records for life, or want to be used as a scapegoat to make a statement to other trainees to fall in the FAA line."

Concluded Forrey: “You cannot treat American workers this way, particularly not the young, talented, highly-skilled professionals who are the future of the air traffic control profession and want to serve their country and the flying public.”

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