Bill aims to improve FAA labor negotiations process

Move comes as FAA faces wave of retirements in air traffic control workforce. Move comes as FAA faces wave of retirements in air traffic control workforce. Daniel Hulshizer/AP
Legislation introduced Thursday to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and modernize the nation's air traffic control system includes provisions designed to bolster the agency's labor negotiations process.

The bill (S. 1300), introduced by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., would strengthen the collective bargaining rights of FAA employees and restore what its sponsors call "balance and fairness" to the agency's labor negotiations process.

The move comes as the FAA faces a wave of retirements in its air traffic control workforce. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association claims the agency will be unable to recruit enough replacements unless it negotiates a new contract with controllers.

The union and the agency were unable to reach agreement on pay and benefits issues last year, resulting in an impasse and the forced implementation of the agency's final proposal.

The reauthorization legislation would force the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service to intervene if the FAA failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement with its respective labor unions.

Further, if the agency and union failed to reach an agreement through FMCS, the negotiations would be referred to an independent three-member arbitration board, which, after hearing the claims of both parties, would determine the final terms.

"The arbitration board shall take into consideration the effect of its arbitration decisions on the [FAA's] ability to attract and retain a qualified workforce and the [FAA's] budget," the bill states.

According to NATCA spokesman Doug Church, the FMCS already helps in contract talks with the FAA, but that does not necessarily mean the two parties come to an agreement. He said binding arbitration, as the reauthorization bill would require, is necessary in negotiating a contract amenable to both parties.

"That is to our liking, and that is what should happen in the event of impasses in the future," Church said. "We're glad to see that."

Nonetheless, NATCA President Patrick Forrey said the union still is hoping for congressional intervention that will allow the union to return to talks with the FAA, to reach agreement on the contract imposed by the agency last year.

"We are trying to work with the Commerce Committee to get back to the contract negotiating table with the FAA and have fairness restored to the collective bargaining process," Forrey said.

Meanwhile, the reauthorization bill also would allow $1.2 billion for the FAA to modernize the air traffic control system to meet an increasing demand for air transportation and need for airline safety and security.

"For years, we've understood that our nation's aviation system faced an impending crisis if we did not take action to modernize our air traffic control and update antiquated systems," Lott said.

In a statement, the FAA praised lawmakers' work on the reauthorization, but did not address the labor relations language.

A Senate aviation panel plans to mark up the bill on May 16. A hearing is scheduled for next week.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.