Media Release - Air Traffic Control Collective Agreement Negotiations

Civil Air President Robert Mason released this statement in response to news headlines over the long weekend.

"Civil Air’s vision statement represents a long term view of the direction in which Air Traffic Control and associated support services’ terms and conditions need to move in order to address the immediate and growing crisis in staffing within Australia. This problem is not isolated to our country. IFATCA, the International Federation of Air Traffic Control Associations, believes the shortage to be in the order of 3000 ATCs worldwide. Within Australia, Airservices (the Australian government body responsible for provision of ATC) has publicly admitted significant staff shortages. Civil Air believes Australia to be 10% understaffed at present.

Significant issues face Airservices Australia as it struggles to keep ATC services in operation. The global market has moved and skilled controllers are moving overseas to more lucrative positions. The controller population, like that of Australia, is aging. Unlike many other professions, controllers have a “use by” date that rarely exceeds 55 as they find it more and more difficult to meet stringent medical standards. In many locations average ages nudge towards 50 and some even further. A new employee off the street takes 5 or more years after completion of basic training to reach the peak of their skills and initial rating takes in the order of 2 years to attain. Thus a drain of skilled workers with 20+ years experience either by retirement, medical invalidity or employment overseas is not easily overcome.

Civil Air has spent a considerable amount of time and effort canvassing its members in preparation for the current round of negotiations. Conditions and salary scales within the document represent market value for ATC internationally and the supervisor scales closely relate to salaries offered to employees by Airservices mid-2007 as part of a supervision restructure. Government expectation of productivity gains continue to be met as fewer controllers manage more and more traffic. International scrutiny of controller productivity rated Australian ATC as one of the most efficient in the world. Australian ATC moves more aircraft per controller than any other location (including FAA and Eurocontrol).

The vision document does not represent a secret wish list. To the contrary it was presented in its entirety to Airservices’ chief negotiator on the first day that Airservices’ made itself available to meet, Monday, May 12th. To date no specific response has been received from Airservices regarding the document and preparation of a formal claim by Civil Air continues. We look forward to continued negotiation and hopefully an acceptable outcome for all parties prior to expiry of the current agreement at the end of this year.

Robert Mason
President, Civil Air

June 7, 2008