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|Weekly Update for <!----Enter Date Bellow ****************> October 20, 2000 <!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>|
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Greetings from Barbados! In order to tell you how I came to be here in Barbados we’ve got to get through most of this week’s update, so let’s do it, shall we?
This week starts out where last week ended. On Friday night I flew out to Las Vegas, and on Saturday morning Bob Taylor, Greg Llafet, Andy Cantwell and myself set out to evaluate hotels for FacRep Training 2001. Greg had narrowed the list by visiting almost every property on the Strip, so our job was that much easier, but we still spent most of the day looking at rooms and meeting space, and talking to Sales Reps. Lots of walking, and a whole lot less fun than it sounds.
After physically sizing up the various properties we held a short meeting to discuss our impressions and options. I think we came to some very exciting---and fiscally prudent---decisions, which I will let Greg, the Training guy, announce. To thank them for working on the weekend, I took the team to dinner that evening.
Sunday was free time until evening, so Mrs. Bull and I went over to the new Alladin Hotel and Casino. I hit a $300 dollar jackpot playing video poker, and I figured Jill would be very impressed. I should have known better. When I found Mrs. Bull she was sitting, arms folded, while the attendant paid off her $400 dollar Wheel of Fortune jackpot! She’s the luckiest woman I know (and I’m the luckiest man…I married her.)
Sunday evening I hosted a reception for the incoming Facrep class from seven until nine p.m. I was joined and assisted there by Bob Taylor, Greg Llafet and Andy Cantwell. It was a good time for up-and-coming activists to meet some of their leadership team and instructors in an informal setting, where they could ask questions and raise issues. The evening was an experiment of sorts, and I was very happy with the results. I’m anxious to discuss it with Greg and the others when I get back to get some feedback on how they think it went.
Monday morning I began my day around five a.m., making and taking phone calls back to the East Coast. Jeff Sparrow thought he woke me when he called at 6:30 Vegas time, but he was my fourth phone call!! I then made a “formal” presentation to open Facrep Training, discussing the entire spectrum of issues and taking questions for about half an hour. As soon as I completed that work, I grabbed my bags, hopped into a cab, and whizzed out to the airport.
>From a payphone at the airport I convened an NEB Telcon to discuss the Election Committee report on the protests filed by two bargaining unit members. The Election Committee report is available on-line, as are the draft minutes of our telcon. The result, for those who haven’t heard it yet, is that we will conduct a re-run of the runoff for Executive Vice President, and will not conduct a re-run of the Western Pacific RVP election.
The telcon took two and one half hours…just enough time for me to watch my 757 slide off the gate without me. I got in line to talk to the ticket agent, and you all know how long those lines can be in Las Vegas. The Vegas airport always looks like Saigon in 1972…a lot of people leaving in a hurry, and none of them very happy. I called Adell on the cell phone, basically just to say, “HEEEEEELLLLLLPPPPPPPPP!” Before I got to the head of the line Adell had me booked on another flight leaving Las Vegas (in about thirty minutes) through Dallas, and getting me into DC just two hours after I was originally scheduled to. I couldn’t really even believe she pulled this one off myself.
Tuesday started about seven a.m., which was a shame. My airplane had a mechanical in Dallas, and I didn’t get in until 1 a.m. As I’m sure you can imagine Jill was overjoyed to come get me at the airport at that hour, and I was looking and feeling my finest. Not.
I spoke with Phil Barbarello on the PCS MOU, and the need to meet with the Agency to discuss new hires. I also spoke with Ruth on a bazillion issues, and touched base with Dale Wright on the status of Local’s filing their LM-3’s and 4’s. Please be sure to check with your treasurer, and make sure your local is filing the appropriate form with our National Office. It will keep us out of your business, and keep you out of jail.
At 8:30 Dick Swauger and I walked over to Bill Osborne’s office to discuss the appeal of the Contract Tower lawsuit in Ohio. We discussed C90 as well. We also received a request for testimony on the Hill for tomorrow on the TRAC Act, and privatization in general. Bill will give the testimony on our behalf, concentrating on the time, money and other resources the government has wasted fighting us on this issue.
The time is flying. As soon as we got back to the office it was time for the weekly Director’s Meeting. I briefed the Directors on the Election Protest, as did our General Counsel. Adell gave us an update on the parking situation. Susan gave us an update on LM-3’s, RVA negotiations, and a release form she is working on for the National Office staff, to allow them to use the limited exercise equipment we have.
Randy is working with Ruth on transition issues, and is also flying to Oklahoma City to meet with Mark Pallone and the Flight Surgeons on a host of issues, including continuity between regions, diabetic controllers, etc. Sherrod advised us that the calendar is nearing completion, and also will be working with Ruth to get her “glamour shot” for use in our publications. I directed Sherrod to work the issue of a “60 Minutes” piece, which the Agency is apparently working on having to do with Free Flight. Sherrod also announced a promotion which I made to Courtney Portner, to the position of Deputy Director of Communications.
Frances reminded everyone that their budgets are due by Friday. I reminded Frances that I wanted a big budget! It’s become something of a running joke between us. I committed to page the Regions to remind them of their budget submission requirements.
Lew discussed the new initiative he has undertaken to make us more efficient. His department has taken the responsibility for delivering the mail to all offices once a day. This not only frees up staff to do other duties, but keeps our reception area downstairs from looking like a break room. A brilliant idea. We also discussed benefits, which are a mess right now. We have so many different providers of so many marginal benefits it’s any wonder we have anything worthwhile at all. Lew is aggressively pursuing this agenda item, and I’m very confident in his abilities in this regard. It just takes time, and I thank you all for your patience.
Ken briefed the board on the hearing tomorrow, and on the Appropriations Bill language which provides for a 3.7% increase.
>From there it was off to a meeting with Meridith Kimbell of Corporate Adventure. Meridith will be doing our NEB Teambuilding, and we’re cooking up a very exciting and aggressive program. The preparation we’re doing now will reflect in the quality of the product we produce towards the end of the month.
I went back to the office and spoke with Blackie on liaisons and Article 48 reps, and then had a variety hour with Ruth on everything you can think of and then some. Ken stuck his head in to advise that they had cancelled the hearing, which was no surprise. I invited Ruth to go over to the Administrator’s office with me for a meeting at 4:30p.m., and over we went. I gave Jane my evaluation of the Engineer’s contract process and my opinion on it’s chances for future success. I believe she understood my point. Jane committed to investigating some issues for me, and I’ll be calling her at home Sunday night when I get back. She had a wicked cold, so I gave her a handful of Hall’s Mentho-Lyptus Drops, which Ray Gibbons from Chicago taught me to love. She was surprised I had them, and quite appreciative. A full service President, indeed!
After talking with Ms. Garvey we cabbed back to the National Office, and I cleaned up my office and went through my correspondence and email, which took me several hours.
Yikes, I’m late for dinner. I had told Steve Entis from Cleveland Center that I’d join them for dinner while his team was in town. I finally caught up with Steve and John Harmon, Todd Wargo, Scott Milner, Mike Hehrman, Chris Johnson, Mitch Stacey, Rick Barton, along with Bob Himes and Dana Thomas out by my place. We enjoyed a nice dinner and conversation on every topic you can think of asking your President when his mouth is full of fajitas!
Whew. I’m exhausted. Now, all we’ve got to do is pack, and set the alarm for 3:30 a.m……
For a 6:15 a.m. flight to JFK, and on from there to Barbados, for the 11th Conference of the Americas for IFATCA, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controller Associations. We arrived at the hotel around four. The phone in my room rang, and Ron Morgan was on the other end. Hi, Ron. We discussed the new CIC Order, and some recent correspondence he had received on the subject. We’ll be working very closely to insure the integrity of the program as we move forward. From there it was dinner at five. I forgot they move on island time here, and by the time we got back to the hotel it was fifteen minutes until the opening ceremony. It was a race to see who could get ready the fastest. I lost, because as I was reaching into my laptop case to get the itinerary, I noticed it was soaking wet…just like my airline tickets, Jill’s passport, and some hardware as well. The puddle from the air conditioner to my stuff was diminishing, now that my gear had soaked up all the water….
I called management (grrrrrrrrrrr) and a reasonable accommodation was reached. I love my new beach front room with two balconies. Jill and Ruth made the Opening Ceremony along with James Ferguson, and I arrived about fifteen minutes into it. It was a very solemn occasion. It was followed by a cocktail reception, and some native Bajan entertainment…dancers, fire eaters, that sort of stuff. I probably resembled one of those fire eaters when I was negotiating with management over the unfortunate leakage into my hotel room.
Thursday morning James, Ruth and I met for morning coffee at 7:30 a.m. so James could in-brief us on where we’ve been with IFATCA. We have traditionally been very “low key,” but many nations are looking to us to take a more proactive role. Additionally, a more proactive role in IFATCA will facilitate a better working relationship with ICAO, and maybe next time they come up with a program to change everyone over to French weather (METAR), we’ll be ready to affect the outcome!
We discussed committees and working papers and the manual, and CNS/ATM, which in IFATCA is Communications/Navigation/Surveillance-Air Traffic Management. When they say management, they are speaking of the management of the system, not the layers of people who don’t wear headsets.
We discussed privatization, and the fact that many countries have embraced it. Memo to self: If you find yourself at a microphone, remind them that we disagree on this subject. I also ran into Fuzz from CATCA, and reaffirmed with him his feelings on the subject. He thinks privatization is the worst thing in the world, and further stated that a recent survey had revealed that 75% of all NAV-Canada employees (across all lines of business) would work somewhere else if they could make the same money.
>From our meeting with James it was off to the General Session of the Regional Meeting. Representatives from Antigua, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States were in attendance. The meeting is very formal, with the acceptance of the agenda, other correspondence, a Report of the Executive Board, a Report of the EVP for the Americas, and reports from each Member Association.
Each WHAT?!?!?!? I ran up to my room, and prepared our report. From scratch. I didn’t have much time…just the time it took the General Session to hear from Antigua to Tobago to finish. I worked on it, brought it down for Ruth and James to review, worked on it some more, and then printed 40 copies on NATCA letterhead during lunch.
Good fortune smiled on me again when the speaker just prior to me asked if the conference could consider going to a bilingual format, with a spanish interpreter. When he was done he stated, “You may ask question, but only in Spanish.” Of course, when I got up to do our Member Association report I started by saying, “My name is John Carr, and I am the newly elected President of NATCA. And si quieres, ustedes me pueden hacerme mis preguntas en espanol, tambien.” (And if you wish, you all may ask me my questions in spanish, as well.) The crowd went wild.
Ruth has taken stewardship of all Member Association Reports, including ours, and will be putting those out for your review in the very near future. I hope you’ll take the time to read them. They are amazing, heartwarming, inspiring, and quite professional as well. We not only have something to offer the rest of the world in terms of the art and science of air traffic control, we’ve got a lot to learn as well.
The nations which are missing from this meeting are Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Equador, El Salvador, French Antilles, Grenada, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Paraguay and Uraguay. In many cases, these nations advised IFATCA that they would be unable to attend, because they would be busy at home, celebrating today, October 20, which is known around the world as “Controller Day.” Did you know that? I didn’t know that, but the rest of the world does, and in some cases celebrates with parades, parties, proclamations, and other prominent activities. We’ll have to work on that.
My impressions so far are very positive about IFATCA. I see a group of dedicated professionals striving to better their profession through collective activity designed to emphasize common goals. I see dirt poor people from dirt poor countries scraping together enough funds to come here and report that their three year strike is over, and they have gotten their jobs back, and they didn’t end up dead or in prison. They must leave tomorrow, as they cannot afford to stay another night. I see Jamaica discussing their OJT pay, which is 24%. I see another nation mention that they just go with a flat $50.00 per day, whenever you train.
I hear tell of an IFATCA initiative to start a Travel Club for their members. Hmmm. Where have I heard that before? I see men and women who wear headsets for a living, struggling to better their profession and placing always, everywhere, safety above all. And I have to keep reminding myself, this is only the Americas Conference. The General Session next spring in Geneva will include over a hundred nations.
Meetings ended around 6:30 p.m., and the sun’s already down. I haven’t been out of my suit since I got here, so no need changing now. Jill, James and I share a cab into town for a nice dinner. We enjoyed each others’ company very much, and took a warm and pleasant walk along the waterfront, gawking at the sailboats and catamarans and water toys of the rich and famous.
Friday morning, October 20, 2000: Happy Controller Day! I get up early to type my update, and then get down to the general session, where Fuzz is briefing the delegates on privatization in Canada. It’s a disaster for the employees.
NAV-Canada consolidated control centers, increased work schedules by two hours per week (at straight time pay), stopped all training for a year and a half, and mandated that, “All past practices cease at the end of the transition period.” The money to be made by charging airlines for the service is being passed on to travelers at the rate of $7.00 a leg, $15.00 for internationals. As previously described, morale is low, and according to Fuzz the safety margin is decreasing. I think his presentation sobered a few of the delegates.
Argentina made a presentation, and plans to bid on the 2003 IFATCA General Session.
Following formal presentations there was an open period for discussion, and some topics covered included the anonymous nature of our work and our need to advertise (!), and member benefits. We (NATCA) agreed to explore modifying our newly minted commercial for worldwide distribution, and we also agreed to revisit the issue of travel benefits for members with our legal counsel. IFATCA may be able to broker some sort of Travel Club, but with 30,000 members worldwide and half of those in NATCA, they would need our numbers to make it work. We’ll be exploring these options between now and the meeting in Geneva.
We also received a report from the ATC Professional Career Task Force, comprised of representatives from Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama and Paraguay. For those of you still reading this lengthy update, you get to find what I found: The diamonds in the rough.
You see, the international air traffic controller community, tethered in ICAO, agreed to the following definition of optimum job conditions, rest, and life of the Air Traffic Controller…and this list is not all inclusive:
shifts should be based on at least two consecutive days off per week after a night shift a rest of thirty hours minimum is recommended the operational time including breaks should not exceed 32 hours per week a minimum of eleven hours rest between shifts should be provided a minimum of one hour should be provided for lunch for safety of aviation overtime should be considered unwilling and should be avoided annual vacation period should be not less than thirty working days annual vacation should include three consecutive weeks
Based on those assumptions I’d say our next contract team has their work cut out for them!!!
While reading this report I came to the realization that the truth is the truth, no matter what language it’s spoken in. Our profession is absolute, and our brothers and sisters worldwide struggle for many of the very same things which we struggle for---they just do it with a lot less freedom going in than we have, and with a lot less power coming out.
But the truth is the truth. Long periods of work. Human factors limitations. Rest and fatigue issues. Stress. Shiftwork. Overtime. Safety. The issues we collectively face are the same, whether it’s in Seattle or Suriname, Tampa or Tobago, Pittsburgh or Paraguay.
I believe it is in our best interests to not only participate in IFATCA, but to take a leadership role in the international community, as well. I’m certain we will take something from every meeting which will enrich our union, buttress our positions, and assist us in representing you. And if we get the opportunity to help our fellow controllers, then as trade unionists I believe we are morally obligated to do that, as well. As the plaque in Krasner’s office used to say, “No man ever stood so tall as when he stooped to help his fellow man.”
Back to the meeting. We end this afternoon…late…and then there’s a reception this evening. I can’t help but stare out at the ocean, every color of blue ever invented, and think of you all in the towers, and TRACONs, and Centers. Right now you’re probably jealous of me, in the Caribbean, hanging out with a bunch of controllers. And I’m jealous of you, hitting gaps and vectoring to final and blending enroute streams…and hanging out with a bunch of controllers. Best wishes, and we’ll talk to you all next Friday.