Wednesday, February 27, 2008

English-Irish American

Check out this short news story (be sure to look at the pictures) from across the pond. You’ve got to love the English.

”One of the banners hanging down the side of the building read "NO THIRD RUNWAY".”

Think about that for a moment if you will. They don’t want a third runway at their busiest airport -- Heathrow. Atlanta has five parallel runways and I’m sure the sixth is on somebody’s drawing board, somewhere. Of course, the situation in the Northeast proves that we’re not that much different.

There’s another area where there are considerable differences though.

Air traffic controllers consider deal

I can’t speak with any authority on the situation -- I only know what I read about it when it shows up in my news selections. But here is my impression.

The Irish controllers perceived that they were being used and abused. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has failed to hire enough air traffic controllers (like half the world’s ATC system providers, seemingly) and the controllers were paying the price for the IAA’s mistake. The controllers were being scheduled an excessive amount of overtime to make up for the shortfall. Once the controllers figured it out, they said "enough." And evidently, their laws allow them the right to say “No.”

Furthermore, the controllers said “fix it” or they would go on strike. Management wouldn’t agree and so it went to court. (What a novel idea.)

”The Labour Court has recommended that an interim overtime system should be put in place for air traffic controllers for the next 18 months until additional newly recruited staff become fully operational.

Under the proposals, air traffic controllers would receive an allowance of €4,000 a year for making themselves available to do overtime on a voluntary basis.

Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy recommended that participating air traffic controllers should make themselves available to be called in on overtime on 12 days per year but that they would not actually be called into work more than eight times.

He also proposed that an overtime rate of double time should apply and that staff should be paid for a minimum of five hours at overtime rates if they were called in to work.“

I’m sure the Irish controllers will look over the deal for themselves but I look at it in comparison to the controller’s situation in America. American controllers can decline an offer of overtime but can’t refuse an order to work it. If they don’t like it, the only court they can appeal to is the court of public opinion.

The Irish Labour Court recommended an interim plan. The IAA gets 18 months to hire some controllers and they pay the price for their own mistakes -- 4,000 euros to get controllers to volunteer for overtime. And this is the part I really like -- available for overtime 12 times a year but not to actually work it but 8 times a year. For double time instead of time and one half like American controllers.

Let’s add all that up shall we ? The Irish get a bonus. The Americans get nothing. The Irish work no more that 8 shifts of overtime. The Americans work no more that 48-50-52 ? The Irish get double time. The Americans don’t.

But here’s the best part. The Irish controllers get a chance at a fair deal. And the Irish people get the situation resolved in a reasonable amount of time. The Americans ? They’ve got nothing.

With the proper checks and balances, the Irish appear to be on the road to resolving their problem. The Americans on the other hand, have been at odds for over 542 days (just for irony’s sake, that’s right at 18 months) with no end in sight. As a matter of fact, the only thing that is in sight for America is a train wreck -- or a plane wreck.

Don Brown
February 27, 2008

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