NZALPA members were concerned for their American colleagues during the US Government shutdown and ATC Director Kelvin Vercoe passed on messages of support from New Zealand.
“Our US Air Traffic Control colleagues are certainly feeling the effects of President Trump’s decision to shut down the government until he gets his wall, and we have been closely following the efforts of NATCA as they work hard to make sure their incomes are restored as soon as possible,” Vercoe recently wrote to members.
“NZALPA enjoys a close relationship with NATCA which has over 15,000 members. 10,500 Air Traffic Controllers who last got paid on the 31st of December 2018 were still required to work every day, with mandatory overtime, without pay.”
Meanwhile, Vercoe reported, the total controller headcount is at the lowest for 30 years and the traffic level at its highest. Retirements are set to peak over the next five years due to the glut from the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organisation strike in 1981 which saw 11,000 ATCs fired by the Reagan Administration. The latest Government shutdown made the situation worse.
“The training college is shut down, the safety office is closed, and all new projects are on hold. All non-essential and administrative staff have been sent home (furloughed without pay),” Vercoe said during the shutdown.
“The effects of this shutdown will be felt at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and around the world for years to come, it will delay implementation of new technology and systems, stall construction and refurbishment, and cripple the training system as unpaid trainees leave to take alternative work.
“Every available member and representative of NATCA is engaged and lobbying to get the story out in the public arena, and to members of government,” Vercoe said.
“It has been both inspirational and heart breaking to watch. Inspiring seeing so many people working so cohesively together to support each other, heart-breaking to hear the very significant impacts that the absence of fortnightly pay is having in some family environments.
“NATCA is a true leader amongst global aviation trade unions, and they are demonstrating their ability to function flawlessly to support and encourage their members in their greatest time of need.
Here in New Zealand where ATCs currently face their own workload challenges, Vercoe called for the need to “remind ourselves that it’s not always as simple as we think it should or we would like it to be.”
“When the proverbial hits the fan, you should know that you can rely on each other as members of NZALPA, and that the resources we have collectively accumulated as a union and professional association will be there for us and help us through.“
“It is this ability to provide a cohesive and mutual support to each other that is core of our union,” said Vercoe.
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