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Air traffic controllers.

Air traffic controllers

In a move to strengthen the Nation's air traffic control system, the Federal Aviation Administration has begun paying bonuses to attract and retain highly qualified employees at its busiest airports and regional centers. Under the 5-year experimental plan, 2,100 flight controllers, inspectors, and technicians at 13 hard-to-staff locations will receive extra pay of 20 percent. Eligible controllers, who had earned about $62,000 a year, will now receive $74,400 and, with overtime work, could earn $90,000.

The Federal Aviation Administration had received 500 formal bids and 450 inquiries regarding 140 job vacancies at the 13 locations since the program was announced in October 1988. Secretary of Transportation Samuel Skinner, after visiting the hard-to-staff flight control centers, commented, "I think those jobs deserve that kind of compensation."

The executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Ray L. Spickler, called the program "a band-aid on a hemorhage," contending that the program would hurt morale because it benefited relatively few of the 16,000 controllers the union represents. Spickler, while conceding that the premium pay will help ease traffic control difficulties, complained that the selection of sites to be covered was arbitrary and that the union had been limited to an advisory, rather than a collective bargaining, role in developing the plan. Under law, unions representing Federal employees are generally permitted to bargain on working conditions, but not on pay and benefits.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association announced membership ratification of its initial contract with the Federal Aviation Administration. (See Monthly Labor Review, March 1989, pp. 43-44.) The tally was 3,920 to 748, with about 68 percent of the union's members voting. The union is the successor to the defunct Professional Air Traffic Controller Organization, which represented controllers in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan fired 11,400 controllers for striking in violation of Federal law.
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Title Annotation:developments in industrial relations
Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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