FAA denies IT raises

The Federal Aviation Administration has denied a request by its techniciansunion that it immediately offer information technology workers the specialIT pay rates that became effective governmentwide Jan. 1.

The Office of Personnel Management special IT raises of 7 percent to33 percent are designed to offer more competitive salaries and increaserecruitment of computer specialists, computer engineers and computer sciencespecialists in the GS-5 through GS-12 grades.

However, the FAA decided not to apply the raise because the agency'sseparate core compensation plan is market-based, and it already offers salariescompetitive with OPM's special IT rates, Daniel Mehan, the FAA's chief informationofficer, said in an interview last month.

Many FAA computer specialists don't receive core compensation, though,because they are part of collective bargaining units that negotiate theirown contracts including pay.

The Professional Airways Systems Specialists, a union that representsthe FAA's technical workers — including 800 FAA computer specialists — fileda formal grievance Jan. 31 with FAA Administrator Jane Garvey on behalfof computer specialists in the Flight Standards unit who have not movedto the core compensation plan and who have not received the IT special rates,even though they are still on the GS pay scale.

PASS plans to seek binding arbitration to resolve the issue, said MichaelDerby, counsel for PASS.

"We'll take every possible action we can within the law," Derby said.By law, federal workers cannot take a job action such as a work stoppage.Binding arbitration is the ultimate remedy PASS can pursue, and Derby saidPASS hopes to obtain a hearing as soon as possible in order to benefit ITworkers quickly.

The FAA refused to offer the special IT pay rates because its reauthorizationact of 1996 requires the agency to negotiate any such changes it makes tocompensation and other personnel matters, according to a March 1 letterfrom Raymond Thoman, FAA deputy assistant administrator for labor and employeerelations, to Michael Fanfalone, PASS national president, regarding theunion's grievance.

"As this is a pay matter, we believe any extension of those tables tobargaining unit employees within FAA is a change more appropriately addressedthrough the contract negotiations process," Thoman said in the letter. Theunion cannot obtain through the grievance process what it did not gain throughnegotiations, he wrote.

While the FAA's technical objections may be sound, Derby said his concernis that the FAA's decision not to offer the IT pay raise could affect aviationsafety.

PASS also may conduct information picketing, in which members wouldhand out information or picket across the country at airports or FAA officesto raise public awareness about the issue, Derby said. No decision on thepicketing has been made, he said.

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