AMENDING TITLE 49, UNITED STATES CODE -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 07, 2006)
* Mr. BACA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5449.
* This bill, sponsored by Representative LATOURETTE, will restore fairness and accountability to the FAA's negotiating process.
* It is time that Congress steps in to ensure that no serious damage is done to the integrity and safety of our aviation system. We must support the men and women who help keep our airways safe and on time.
* The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been trying to circumvent real negotiations and to unilaterally impose a contract on the air traffic controllers. Increasingly, they have refused to negotiate in good faith in an effort to create a false impasse.
* Congress must act! Earlier this week, the FAA moved to start implementing its unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment for our nation's air traffic controllers.
* The system is already facing a massive staffing crisis that could leave fewer and fewer qualified and trained controllers guiding record air traffic. More than 7,000 air traffic controllers are expected to retire over the next nine years. Air traffic controller staffing is critical. We will need 1,000 new air traffic controllers per year over the next five years to avert a staffing crisis. These conditions will lead to an erosion of talent at the agency because retirement-eligible controllers, the FAA's most experienced, would see the imposition as a reason to retire. This will in turn make recruiting replacement controllers of quality and excellence much more difficult. Possible delays due to staff shortages and inexperienced staff, as well as the closing of severely understaffed facilities could impose hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary costs for consumers and communities.
* H.R. 5449 would encourage the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in the contract negotiations to reach an agreement and turn toward other important matters, including the future growth and safety of the U.S. air traffic system.
* This bill would allow for the existing sections of the law to be utilized to solve the contractual differences--the same way disputes are settled for other federal workers. It would allow for this and future disputes to be settled in a manner that ensures a fair hearing for both sides.
* I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 5449 and restore fairness to this negotiating process and keep America's airways flowing safely and professionally.