Air Traffic Controllers and Government Spar

Labor contract talks between the Federal Aviation Administration and the nation's air traffic controllers' union broke off after nine months of collective bargaining. Now, the U.S. Congress will likely get into the act, and the body has 60 days to intercede. If lawmakers fail to act, the FAA would impose its last, best, contract offer. That offer would raise the average controller's base pay plus premium pay from $128,000 to $140,000 in five years. The union, meanwhile, want to sue and bring the dispute before a federal labor-relations panel rather than Congress. The union wants Congress to pass a law sending the two sides to binding arbitration. Nearly half the existing air traffic controllers are set to retire over the next decade; most in that group are replacements for the controllers President Reagan fired in 1981 after those workers went on strike illegally.

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