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|Weekly Update for <!----Enter Date Bellow ****************>March 23, 2001<!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>|
Weekly Update For The Week of March 23,
This week’s update will be necessarily truncated because although my plane landed at six or so, I’m about to crash. It’s after ten o’clock on the East Coast and I’m well into my twenty-fifth hour awake.
Saturday the 17th Jill and I departed DC in the middle of the afternoon, and after three planes and thirteen hours we arrived in Geneva, Switzerland for the 40th IFATCA Conference. Swissair lost our bags for two hours, and just as we were finishing the forms to make a claim for them they came tumbling down the carousel.
We got to the hotel around noon on Sunday and power-napped until early evening, when it was time to meet the other delegates at the Opening Reception. After the reception we went out to dinner with most of the NATCA delegation, which was comprised of myself, Joe Fruscella, Ricky Thompson, Mark Pallone, Barry Krasner, James Ferguson and Martin Cole.
Myself, Joe, Ricky and Mark were there as Executive Board members to represent NATCA’s interests on the various committees. We nominated Barry Krasner and James Ferguson to positions within IFATCA, and Martin previously served on Standing Committee 1, and also had a Working Paper to submit.
Monday morning I met Barry for a very early breakfast and indoctrination into all things IFATCA. We discussed the politics of the organization and NATCA’s roles and responsibilities. The Opening Plenary featured many guest speakers, from the Geneva Organizing Committee to the President of IFATCA to the Vice President of the European Commission to the head of the Government of the Republic of Geneva.
During breaks I met with old friends including the Argentinian delegation, with which I exchanged gifts. They were very grateful for my letter of support earlier in the year, and told me it had run in all the papers in Argentina. The international support they had received assisted them in resolving their issues in their favor with the government, and they were eager to host the 2003 IFATCA Conference in Buenos Aires.
I also met with a delegation from Jordan, who would like to set up an exchange of controllers between our two countries. I advised them that I would explore the idea with them through an email exchange of ideas and proposals.
The business was conducted in closed session for the remainder of Monday’s session, which was just as well since it was related to personnel issues.
Back at the hotel I tried for the first time to download my email, and while Mark Pallone tells me it’s possible, it seems like too much trouble to me. You have to dial about four different numbers, separated by just the right number of commas to get the pauses. No email, no cell phone. This is getting scary.
Tuesday’s business covered working papers and agenda items, which I’ll try to get put in an IFATCA conference when they’re finalized. We also delivered a package of information to the Japanese delegation, who had asked for our help on short notice. Many thanks to Tom Ferrier and the folks at SFO, LGA and any other airport that got their information in on time.
We discovered that the Italian controllers had gone on strike today, and there were riots in the streets of Argentina. The more I hear the luckier I feel. I won’t bore you with the details of every motion or meeting, but I can tell you that our organization is becoming recognized as a world leader in not only air traffic control, but also in representing the rights of working men and women in our profession. Many nations in IFATCA are professional associations, combinations of union and management. IFATCA takes pains to remain apolitical, but we manage to make our points for organized labor at every turn.
Wednesday we did the bulk of our work, on items ranging from privatization working papers to changing the IFATCA currency from the Swiss Franc to the U. S. Dollar. We discussed suspended member nations, and also took action on terminating nations that had fallen into arrears on their dues.
In Costa Rica the inflation rate had caused them to fall into default, in spite of spending all the monies they collect on attempting to remain members. Their dues were $400.00 in arrears, and on behalf of NATCA I agreed to pay for them. Likewise, Paraguay had fallen into default due to a strike and limited civil war. They owed $800. in back dues, and we agreed to pick them up, as well. After we picked up our hemispheric neighbors a couple other well-to-do nations picked up some of their brethren, as well, and I think only one nation ended up getting the boot.
In Zimbabwe a controller accidentally whiffed the President’s plane, and all controllers on the shift were fired. This came on the heels of another controller who had received three months in jail for parking a VIP aircraft at the wrong spot on the tarmac. In Uganda the manager of a facility was taken to court, and two controllers were dismissed, for having a deal. Our Operational Error MOU is sounding better all the time.
Aside from the swapping of horror stories, IFATCA provides us with a window into ICAO, and into technologies and proposals that start overseas, and slowly leech their way into the United States (can anybody say METAR?) Our involvement is crucial if we are to lead on some of these issues, rather than follow the rest of the world on all of them.
In that regard, the work done late Wednesday will bear fruit in the coming year. I will stand on Standing Committee 3, the Finance Committee, with Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and Sweden. Barry Krasner will serve as Chairman of Standing Committee 6, Constitution, with New Zealand, the Netherlands and Barbados. Bill Otto will stand on the Committee formed by combining SC 4 and SC 7, with Joe Fruscella contributing a Working Paper, and last but not least, James Ferguson has been elected the new Deputy President of IFATCA.
Thursday dawned sunny and bright, the first such day since we got here. I was beginning to think drizzly rain was a permanent global condition. I attended the first meeting of the new SC3, and we divided up work projects for the coming year. We will probably have one meeting in late November, which will fall after the Americas conference and before the holidays.
The late afternoon was spent with Jill, shopping and walking about in downtown Geneva. It’s a lovely city, although more French than Swiss, owing to it’s geographical position at the end of a narrow peninsula of land surrounded by France. There is something like thirty border crossings in the immediate vicinity of Geneva, and few if any are manned for any length of time. While Europe struggles with Open Skies they have already given up many of the formalities associated with transnational commerce. My passport wasn’t stamped once.
Friday morning we got up at four in the morning for our trip home, getting to the airport two hours early just like they recommend. The gate agent informed us that the flight would be late due to air traffic control problems, harrumph, harrumph, wink, wink. That earned him one of my business cards and a short course in Air Traffic Theory and Practice, taught by Professor Bull (who had one too many expressos to put up with any gate agent guff, be they foreign or domestic!)
Of course being late on the Geneva to Zurich leg means we had only twenty minutes to make our transatlantic connection, but we got to the gate in time. You know you’re cutting it close when, as you walk up, they say, “Mr. Carr? Are you Mr. Carr?” Oui, oui!!!
Upon landing in the US we discovered that our four suitcases had neglected to make the trip with us, and would be arriving some other time (or day.) I informed the airline that they had twenty-four hours to get my bags to me or they would be forwarding them on to my next destination (Las Vegas,) where the NEB will be meeting next week. I also asked him if the delay was due to air traffic control, but he didn’t get the joke. Sheesh.
While I was away the BBS came back up, and it is due to the diligence and dedication of the National Communications Committee. These activists have been putting in twelve and eighteen-hour days, for absolutely no compensation, toiling early and late to bring a state of the art communications network to you. Please take every opportunity available to you to thank these folks for their work. They are the very best our union has to offer.
In Uganda the manager of a facility was taken to court, and two controllers were dismissed, for having a deal.
Thank you all for your patience while I was away. It’s important for us to not only attend these functions, but for us to lead them, as well. I think we’re well on our way. The union functions well in the President’s absence due to great staff, strong leadership and fantastic activism, all of which were on display this week. We accomplished a lot, and we are moving forward on all fronts simultaneously.
Plans for NATCA in Washington continue to firm up. We’ve contracted with Paul McElroy to write NATCA’s history with the Committee. The CAB held it’s first meeting. The Communications Department, under the strong leadership of new Director Courtney Portner, is delivering outstanding service to the members. The Membership Department is set to roll out an exciting new benefit for all of us. The Labor Relations Department is doing a contract-a-week. We’ve completed negotiations on Consolidated Pay Rules, National Airspace Redesign, TAAP and CRCT. I expect to finish another couple MOUs within the month, and I’m working hard to untangle the logjam of moves for our friends at NCT. Everywhere you look, spring is not only in the air, it’s in our step, as well.
Thank you again for all you do to support your union. I know many of you are making sacrifices far beyond the call of duty to advance the cause of the professionals we jointly represent, and I’m spellbound by your dedication and tenacity. I told Bryan Thompson to thank Karen for me, and before you call it a day I’d appreciate it if you’d do the same for your spouse or significant other. We do it because we love it, and our families sacrifice their time and attention for exactly the same reason: because WE love it.
Thank them for me, will you?
Best wishes, and we’ll see you next week.