By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN • Published 14th March 2012
Federal officials and the nation's 15,000 air traffic controllers announced Wednesday they are extending an existing work contract for another four years.
Controllers will get the same pay raise given to other federal government employees instead of independently negotiating raises, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said.
The announcement, coming six months before the expiration of the existing contract, suggests improved relations between management and labor. It appears both sides wanted to avoid the bruising battles that characterized some previous negotiations.
Under the contract extension, work rules will remain the same, the FAA said. And the controllers will get the same raises the president and Congress authorize for other federal employees.
The current contract was enacted in 2009 and was to expire on October 1. But the extension, which did not require a vote of the union's members, will prolong the agreement until July 1, 2016.
In a joint statement, Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said the extension serves both organizations.
"This contract extension will provide stability for our work force; ensure continued collaboration to transform the air traffic system through NextGen , delivering more on-time and fuel-efficient flights; and continue to provide the safest air transportation system in the world."
NextGen is the satellite-based navigation system that currently is being phased in to replace the existing ground-based radar system.
Contract negotiations between the FAA and its controllers historically have been fractious. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired striking controllers, leading to the decertification of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or PATCO. And, after contract talks broke down in 2005, the union worked for more than three years under a contract imposed by President George W. Bush and Congress.