WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Obama administration has reached a tentative three-year agreement with the nation's air traffic controllers over pay and working conditions which could end a period of open hostility between controllers and their employer.
In a joint news release, both the Federal Aviation Administration and its largest union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), said a mediation process has produced a "landmark" agreement.
But neither side would disclose specifics of the tentative pact, saying details are being provided to union members, who will have 45 days to vote on much of the agreement.
Nor would they say if the agreement addresses staffing at control towers. The union has long contended that staffing shortages are hurting the public's safety.
Air traffic controllers have been working without an agreement since 2006.
"The Obama administration recognized that not having a mutually agreed upon contract... had created an untenable situation and that ensuring the safety and efficiency of the nation's aviation system made fair resolution a must," the joint statement said.
Thursday's announcement actually involves the culmination of two events -- a mediation which settled more than 100 issues in dispute, and a binding arbitation which decided five issues not resolved by the mediation. The five issues decided by arbitrators, including compensation, are not subject to ratification by members.
Both sides says the agreement provides employees with greater flexibility in their work schedules, childcare support, a new grievance review process, and a variety of other gains. At the same time, it affords FAA the flexibility to more effectively redeploy labor to congested airports using Controller Incentive Pay.
The agreement also restores a "more equitable pay standard, to benefit new hires as well as veterans nearing retirement."
Costs will be phased in over the three years of the contract, which helps ensure that FAA will not have to tap into its budget for critical capital investments in order to handle increased personnel costs.
"This marks a new day between the FAA and the air traffic controllers as we move forward with a spirit of cooperation," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
NATCA President Patrick Forrey called it a "turning point" in the relationship between the FAA and its controllers.
"We wholeheartedly thank President Obama and [Department of Transportation] Secretary [Ray] LaHood for addressing the tumultuous labor relations issues at the FAA by establishing a fair process that has allowed the parties to negotiate and arrive at a collective bargaining agreement that NATCA members now have an opportunity to ratify."
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