FAA, Union Strike Agreement

The Federal Aviation Administration has reached a tentative agreement with its largest labor union. The deal with the union representing air traffic controllers could bring an end to a long and contentious process.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Air traffic controllers have reached a tentative labor agreement with Federal Aviation regulators. This ends a bitter conflict and three years of air-traffic controllers working without a contract.

From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn has more.

WADE GOODWYN: The years of labor strife caused both the air traffic controllers and the FAA a fair amount of grief. Since 2005, the controllers have been working without a contract. The FAA under the Bush administration was unwilling to budge off its initial offer and called a halt to all negotiations on Labor Day weekend of 2006. Many veteran controllers responded by leaving. The number, who retired in their first year of eligibility at age 50 doubled after 2006 and to its chagrin, the agency learned it could be hurt in other ways too.

Whistle blowers, including air-traffic controllers, revealed such a litany of safety problems at airports around the country that the FAA was knocked on its heels, called before Congress, and forced to apologize to the flying public for its failures. While running for president, candidate Barack Obama promised to end the stalemate in negotiations. Eight months into his term, he's made good on that pledge.

FAA administrator Randy Babbitt announced a new spirit of cooperation and Patrick Forrey, president of the Air Traffic Controllers' Union says the agreement is a turning point in the relationship between the controllers and the Federal Government. Many of the sticking points, now resolved, include work rules. The controllers get greater flexibility with their work schedule and the FAA has more flexibility to redeploy controllers where needed.

Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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