Ruling favors FAA unit for IT pay raise

An arbitrator has ruled that computer specialists at a Federal Aviation Administration unit are entitled to the governmentwide information technology pay raise that took effect Jan. 1.

The binding action could open the door for other FAA IT workers who initially were denied the raise to also receive it.

The arbitrator, S.R. Butler, ruled that IT workers in the FAA's Flight Standards unit who were passed over for the raise are entitled to it and ordered the agency to provide back pay. The workers, about 100 in all, are members of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) union, which represented them in the case and announced the decision Aug. 30.

In denying the special raise that the Office of Personnel Management awarded to other federal IT workers in January, FAA officials said they believed their own core-compensation plan already provided competitive salaries.

While some FAA IT workers are currently paid more than their counterparts at other agencies are even after the OPM raise which ranged from 7 percent to 33 percent others on the core- compensation plan are not.

PASS filed its grievance in January on behalf of the latter group.

PASS National President Michael Fanfalone estimated that the retro.active pay would total about $250,000. "I'm pleased with the arbitrator's decision and disappointed that it had to go to that extent to do the right thing," he said. "Our folks are ecstatic."

FAA officials said it was too soon to comment on the decision, which they received Aug. 30. "We've just received it, and we are reviewing the document," FAA spokeswoman Marcia Adams said Aug. 30.

Fanfalone said he wasn't sure whether the agency would appeal the decision. According to the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which would rule on such an appeal, the FLRA has little review power in any binding arbitration appeals, or "exceptions."

Fanfalone expressed doubt over whether FAA Administrator Jane Garvey would, even after the arbitrator's decision, give the pay raise to IT workers at other agency units who were also passed over.

Carol Pellicott, a computer specialist at the Flight Standards District Office in Allentown, Pa., wrote in an e-mail message that she was pleased with the decision but that "it is a shame that federal employees had to, once again, litigate and wait for something that was rightfully theirs in the first place."

Keith Bennett, secretary of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2282, said the decision should provide leverage in union efforts to have the raise provided to IT workers at the FAA's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City.

The union and center management agreed to delay resolving the dispute until the PASS arbitration was decided, he said. Now that PASS has won, Bennett is "99 percent" sure that the workers he represents will be paid, too.

"We feel pretty sure that now that PASS has succeeded, it should flow down," he said, but added, "It makes sense, but that doesn't necessarily mean that will happen."

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