Aviation workers say government shutdown 'needlessly risks' safety in the skies

Larry Hoffman
January 14, 2019

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is suing the USA federal government on behalf of members who have not received pay for work done during the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The closure, which began on December 22, broke a decades-old record by a 1995-1996 shutdown under former President Clinton that lasted 21 days. He said that other federal workers who inspect airlines and maintenance facilities and certify aircraft manufacturing are furloughed. As many workers in the aviation industry are employed by the government, the aviation business is also affected by the government shutdown.

While the focus, at least in regards to the shutdown, has been on the southern border of the United States, the northern border plays a role, as well.

The intent of the leafleting is to underscore the importance of their work and end the shutdown more quickly, the official said, not to protest.

The U.S. government's budget standoff, which continues to affect hundreds of thousands of federal employees facing the longest shutdown in U.S. history, prompted Miami International Airport to close a security checkpoint early Saturday afternoon.

In reaction to that, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of its members who have not been paid for their work.

"This morning, TSA experienced a national rate of 5.6 percent of unscheduled absences compared to 3.3 percent rate one year ago", Bilello tweeted Saturday.

According to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), more than 50,000 TSA officers and staff will most likely miss another paycheck during this shutdown.

In similar shutdowns Congress and the White House have always agreed to pay back wages to government employees, though some contractors haven't been paid in arrears. TSA agents are on the lower end of the federal pay scale, earning between $36,000 and $43,000 annually.

The shutdown was triggered by a standoff over funding for President Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall along the U.S. -Mexico border.

Lines at the nation's airports have been normal, Bilello said. A statement on its website on Wednesday said 1.74 million passengers were screened across the day, and 99.9 percent had to wait 30 minutes or less.

Many employees are struggling to get by but still continue to work.

Chin told The Miami Herald that some passengers have complained about longer waits but there have been no abnormal security delays.

The FAA closed its training academy in Oklahoma City for new air traffic controller hires.

"We are allocating FAA resources based on risk assessment to meet all safety critical functions", Martin said.

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