Air Traffic Controllers Offered Contract

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it would impose its own contract on the nation's air traffic controllers, two months after negotiations on a new contract broke down.

"The FAA's proposed change takes effect as of today, and we will begin the process of implementing our proposal," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said in a statement Monday.

The FAA's proposal would preserve base salaries and premiums for living in high-cost areas, but new controllers would earn 30 percent less than what the existing work force earns.

However, Blakey said, "even though the prior contract has ended, we will transition by operating under the former work rules and pay rules as we phase in the successor terms and conditions."

The FAA began contract talks in July 2005 with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which says it has 14,500 members in its bargaining unit. After talks broke off April 5, the FAA sent its proposal, along with the union's proposal and objections, to Congress. Lawmakers had 60 days to intercede, after which the FAA could impose its last, best contract offer.

The House is scheduled Tuesday to debate legislation that would nullify that 60-day deadline in hopes of pushing the FAA and the union back to the bargaining table.

Blakey said in April that controllers make much more money than other public servants, control scheduling and hold back modernization. The guaranteed annual increases under the old contract would make the controllers' salaries unaffordable, she said.

The union could not be reached for comment late Monday. It has said the FAA is hostile to controllers and its offer would result in a wave of retirements because it creates a disincentive for controllers to stay on the job.


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