FAA, ATC Union Face Off on Contract Negotiations

 - April 18, 2007, 6:22 AM

Taking a tough line before next week’s opening of contract negotiations with the air traffic controllers union, the FAA said yesterday that “fundamental changes are needed in the contract if the agency is to afford new systems and inspectors to improve safety and to modernize the ATC system to reduce delays and congestion.” Currently, labor costs account for 80 percent of the FAA’s operating budget, and agency officials are looking back at a 1998 labor contract that they say cost an additional $1 billion, or five times the initial projected cost. While the overall number of controllers has remained relatively flat since 1998, the FAA said total compensation for controllers has since ballooned from $1.4 billion to nearly $2.4 billion. An extension of the 1998 contract was signed in December 2003 and will expire this September. FAA administrator Marion Blakey called on both sides to reach an agreement quickly.