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|Weekly Update for <!----Enter Date Bellow *************>January 26, 2001 <!----End Enter Date Bellow *************>|
Sisters and brothers...
This week I attended the NEB meeting in Las Vegas, which coincided with the first FacRep training class for the new year. It was great to see some of our region's reps, and for those who I have not met before, it was nice to put a face with a voice. The NEB meeting was as usual, packed with tons of information; I probably won't remember all that we discussed without a reminder or question about a certain issue, but I'll try to touch on some of the issues that are in the news, so to speak.
I would like to start with discussing the organizing of the staff specialist bargaining unit. At this time, NATCA is still collecting interests cards from the field, and we don't have a specific date as to when an election of the exclusive representative will take place. However, there has been discussion on NATCA.Net concerning our Unions determination to organize this unit, not to mention other units. Arguments have varied from the seniority of these folks to the diluting of the purpose of NATCA as it was organized by and for the controllers of the FAA.
I'm here to relay that the decision to organize other BU's within the agency has been made by the previous NEB. I will tell you that I agree with this decision for several reasons, most primarily because representing working people is what Unions do. But I also am sensitive to the argument that we may be watering down our purpose to fight for and advance the air traffic controller. I believe that we can be successful in organizing while maintaining the integrity of our profession. Actually, by making our representational coverage stronger within the FAA, we help all of the BU's, including the controllers... that's what collective bargaining is all about.
Concerning the seniority of staff specialists, John Carr made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the interpretation of the constitutional by-law on seniority has been made twice, by two different Presidents. That being said, he agrees that once the staff specialists elect NATCA as their exclusive representative as prescribed under Title 5, all facility staff time will be considered time towards seniority, just like it is with TMC's. Now, this may not make some people happy, especially those who refused to bid on staff jobs because they would lose seniority, and of course, those who have worked traffic day in and day out while someone went to a staff job with a better schedule and more relaxing work day.
The decision concerning seniority was determined by the delegates at two separate conventions, and if our members are unhappy about the interpretation, they will have to mandate their delegates to do something about it in Cleveland. But before anyone gets their undies in a bunch, let's look at what we are talking about. When the seniority issue was first determined in Pittsburgh ('96), NATCA represented the DOD controllers at Cherry Point, NC. Questions were asked of the authors of the seniority resolution if BU time at Cherry Point was good time towards seniority if one of the DOD controllers was hired by the FAA. The intent was clearly established by the authors and the convention body when it was stated that DOD controllers would indeed carry their BU time if they worked at a NATCA DOD facility.
This issue was again raised when we organized the contract towers, and again with the TMC's. The bottom line folks, is that whether or not the convention body realized that we would be organizing these other bargaining units, they didn't feel it was just or fair to exclude NATCA BU when these members entered our BU. I believe that same philosophy has carried over whenever we organize another FAA unit, especially one in which controllers detail in and out of. I would also like to point out that most of the staff specialists in the field are either medically disqualified, or permanently assigned. The odds that these folks will come back to the controller BU are very slim, especially when we are only talking about 600 nation-wide. I don't believe we could exclude the staff time based on our by-laws, nor do I believe it would stand up to appeal with the FLRA; it really is the right thing to do, just as it was back in Pittsburgh...
Concerning organizing in general, the NEB has long discussions about what we are doing. It is time to get a handle on the mandate to "organize first, figure it out later" mentality. We are going to sit down and figure out some plans on the future of our organizing efforts, and what we are going to do in providing representation to those people we have taken under our wing. Quite frankly, we owe to ourselves to have a strategy and organizational goals to determine where we are and where we're going. I have attached the current state of affairs concerning the number of BU's we currently represent, including what these folks do and how many of them there are. Right now, there are approximately 3,700 people contained in all of the BU's we have already organized (excluding the controllers), with a total membership of approximately 1,350.
The NEB discussed the possibility of conducting another open season for the controller BU, but decided against it. I can tell you that I voted against an open season for several reasons. First, I believe that the more members we have the stronger we are, and would do nothing to discourage membership. However, we always find ourselves concentrating on the potential members instead of the loyal members. All facilities have the ability to rebate initiation fees, and in the majority of facilities, that is what is done. However, many facilities believe that their members have been paying the dues and supporting all of the gains this Union has accomplished in the past 13 years, and feel that non-members have gotten a free ride for ever; why should the Union keep providing a freebee, when they've been paying for years.
Well, I certainly understand the sentiment, but once a non member begins contributing, it's another member to support the cause; I would encourage facilities to not "cut off their nose to spite their face." Even though the vote to not have an open season was close, the NEB is convinced that we need to concentrate on our membership on board (member only benefits, etc.), and begin to recruit in the other BU's that have joined with us. There will be some further discussions and ideas being kicked around by the NO, but in the meantime, let me know what ideas you might have. I know there are some very passionate arguments to made on both sides...
Discussions concerning the PCS/IPP MOU have not progressed since last week. Carol Branaman gave the NEB an update on the potential problems that have been voiced by the agency, but nothing new has been determined. She and other negotiating team members who are dealing with this issue are going to be in DC next week. Although they are not there to discuss the PCS MOU, almost all of the players negotiating this issue, both FAA and NATCA will be meeting over another matter. Carol intends to try and spend some time on this issue if she can convince the agency to do so... I promise to let you know as soon as any information comes out. This MOU is important to us and the agency, and I can only hope we resolve it soon.
The NAR MOU has hit a wall... the agency has objected to our proposal concerning the pay provisions of developmental controllers, if a change in a facility's CI results in a downgrade. Simply put, the agency is unwilling to provide the same protections for developmentals that they appear to be willing to take for CPC's. However unlikely it may be for changes to result in CI reductions and downgrades, we are determined to provide for our membership protections in pay. We also believe that without this guarantee, our airspace teams will be very reluctant to get completely out of the box when it comes to creating traffic flows and airspace changes.
URET/CCLD is moving right along in the center environment. All of the FacReps and facility FLT's have been developing a national MOU proposal to present to the agency. We have a scheduled telecon this Tuesday to hopefully finalize the proposal. We will then ask the national office to arrange a meeting with the agency to negotiate an MOU. We are looking to agree to procedures that cover the aspects of training and implementation, very similar to DSR. My intent is to have this agreement in place prior to scheduled training. More on that issue when I have more to report.
I will be participating in a meeting with the agency February 15, for the purpose of exploring and identifying a staffing standard for ATC's in field facilities. This will be daunting since we are limited in the amount of BUE's we are entitled to each year, but none the less, a better method for distributing bodies needs to be found than what was done for this year. As you know, the NEB passed a motion to address section (4) of the national staffing MOU at our November 2000 meeting. And aside from the fact that the agency and NATCA agree that more bodies are needed, we have a signed agreement that limits us. I would like to see a more objective method of determining the true staffing needs and then figure out how the limited resources should be distributed. Hopefully, this process won't take two years...
The implementation of the choke points sectors has not progressed since our last meeting with the agency. There has been a change in the FAA leadership dealing with this issue (Larry Bicknell, formerly the ATM at DCA), and he is trying to get up to speed on the specifics. Our biggest issues concern the priority of sector implementation and the associated staffing that goes with them, training delays and immunity provisions. I expect some movement in the next month.
I have had little contact with the RO this past week due to the fact that I've been locked away in the NEB meeting. If you have not heard back from me concerning an update to a specific issue, please send me an email or a page. I will be with the 3rd level advocates Monday morning and back in the Cleveland office in the afternoon. Tuesday I'll be in DC for an NMI (NATCA Members Inc.) board meeting, and then back in the Cleveland office on Wednesday. Thursday will be the advocates out briefing to me, and Friday back in the Cleveland office. Chris and I will meet on February 13 and 14 for 3rd level review.
Hope everyone had a safe and prosperous week...