Then there is this disgraceful episode. This was just released to the press by NATCA.
Due to a staffing shortage at Gulfport Tower in Mississippi, the Federal Aviation Administration was forced last weekend to violate its own imposed work rules and deny proper bereavement leave to two controllers who suffered deaths in their immediate families.
Gulfport currently has 13 fully certified controllers and four trainees. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association believes the facility should have 19 controllers, which is the number both NATCA and the FAA agreed to before the Agency, just last month, threw out that staffing target due to budgetary reasons.
One controller was denied leave to travel from Gulfport to and from the viewing for her grandmother, a round trip of 10 driving hours. The controller became visibly upset and was unable to work traffic after being told at the facility that they could not be released from duty to attend to their personal matters.
During negotiations between NATCA and the FAA on a new contract in 2005 and early 2006, the agency made it clear that bereavement leave shall be up to 10 days.
“This regrettable episode illustrates the importance of the just-released recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board regarding controller rest and fatigue issues,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Patrick Forrey said. “The Agency not only shortened these controllers’ bereavement leave from its imposed work rules to minimal time away due to staffing, but it expected these employees to come back to work immediately and be in top shape to work traffic. The Agency tends to forget that these are human beings that do this important work and they need time to rest and to grieve so that they can recover and return to work in top form.”
Added NATCA Southern Regional Vice President Victor Santore: “This makes me embarrassed to be an FAA employee. This is some of the most heartless behavior I have ever seen in my 22 years as an FAA employee.”
Director of Communications
National Air Traffic Controllers Association