May 11, 2001
Sisters and Brothers,
I finished the weekend in Canada where we wrapped up our interviews and recapped every thing we learned. The situation with NAV CANADA is not as dire as I would like, but there are very clear problems with the private sector monopoly that provides ATC services for our northern neighbor. Even those who supported the privatization were clear that the driving issue is money. Our CATCA brothers talked about why they thought privatization would be good for them and the promises that were made. Those promises have since been broken.
It was clear that the controllers wanted the right to strike and the company and government said that privatization would give it to them. As they prepared to reject their last contract, Parliament threatened to strip them of that right if they did not reach agreement. Now just a few years later, the controllers are going through the process of determining what “essential staffing” would be in the event of a strike. As they provide a public safety function, there is a certain percentage of controllers that are required to staff the system to handle emergencies, military operations and the like. They should not be required to ensure revenue for the company. NAV CANADA has changed its strategy and now says it will take 100% of the controllers, 100% of the time, including overtime to provide essential services. Basically, they are saying they have the right to strike provided everyone comes to work.
Monday, it was into the office to get some paperwork done in the morning and at 10, I was off to ANP (Annapolis, Lee Airport) to get the Comanche ride to PIT for the NEA fac rep meeting. I am really enjoying flying GA to these close destinations. I get to experience the service of the finest air traffic controllers in the world from the user’s perspective and it was one-tenth the cost of going commercial. The controllers at BWI, IAD, ZDC, ZOB, and PIT did a fabulous job! Especially PIT, as they worked us in through the big jets. Thanks for the progressive taxi, too.
I was able to debut the privatization briefing that incorporated the info we gathered in Canada and counters the opposition talking points. I will be putting it all up on the web and I want to meet with the communications committee to set up an anti privatization section that will attract the public. We flew home that day where I still had to unpack, but since I was still waiting for my luggage to make it to BWI, there was no rush.
Tuesday, I used some time in the office to go over financial reports, process vouchers, review upcoming speaking engagements, tried to tackle the mounting pile of e-mail and met with Legislative and Communications departments. The office generates its own demands and it demands a lot when I have been on the road.
Wednesday and Thursday the NEB had a joint meeting with the Air Traffic Management Team (ATMT). We worked from 8-5 with the ATMT and most of us went out to dinner and reviewed the issues. We tackled some big issues (OT, staffing, choke points) and debated them, but we have a lot more work to do. The main benefit of the meeting to is get all of the players together to talk about these issues and hopefully build consistency between the regions and work more effectively with national and one another.
Thursday morning I had the chance to read John’s full testimony and it was dead on. Christine Corcoran did an amazing job of it. If you have not met Christine, she writes our testimony, talking points, and congressional correspondence, in addition to lobbying on our behalf. This testimony did such an effective job of covering our positions; I felt it needed to go into the lobby week packets. Each member can use the points in it to make their meetings more effective. Despite the fact that no likes a VP that throws in more work at the last minute, but they stepped up to the plate without complaint and added making 5,000 copies to their already busy day.
Each day, I hit the office after the meeting to take care of the needs of the day, return a few phone calls and even give a phone interview or two. The members don’t take a day off just because we are locked in a meeting room and I am sure every RVP ended up doing the same as I did. By Friday I had a nice long to do list.
Friday was a normal day. I spent it going through documents, paying bills and going to meetings. Martin Cole, Courtney and I met with the agency to go over our issues with the latest CPDLC video and they committed to reworking the video to make sure it is a useful part of the training program. Martin will be working closely with the video production people to help finish the project as inexpensively as possible.
Maureen, our new publications specialist interviewed me on retirement issues for the next issue of the newsletter. Apparently, there is some confusion about why we are focusing on CSRS. The CSRS “loophole” is the one we are trying to fix with the Cleland bill. Controllers under FERS are already treated like Federal law enforcement and firefighters, under CSRS they are not. This has created a period of time at the end of the career for a CSRS air traffic controller where they may end up working extra years with no effect on their annuity. This creates a disincentive to stay. I have some information that indicates that it was set up that way to encourage controllers to retire earlier when the bill was passed getting the higher paid workers off the roles and allowing the FAA to replace them with a new hire at the bottom of the pay scale. Since then the priorities of the agency have changed with the pending retirement crunch. The fix will bring parity between CSRS controllers and law enforcement and firefighters as it is under FERS. We are not trying to reinvent the retirement system.
She also interviewed me on the NATA panel last week. I look forward to seeing the articles. Just as I finished the interview, I got a call from Carol Hallett, of ATA to see if I was planning to attend the aviation and space stakeholders coalition meeting. She was concerned about the focus of the group and making sure we continue to focus on increasing capacity rather than all of these proposals, including privatization, that seek to restrict access. The meeting went very well and we took a big first step toward an industry consensus. We should have something tangible next week.
Well Lobby Week is just around the corner and I am taking the Activist train from NC in on Monday.