Comments on S. 808

B-202304: Published: Jun 15, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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Legislation has been proposed which would establish: (1) a new salary classification system for air traffic controllers; (2) a shorter workweek; (3) a special retirement plan; and (4) the right to collectively bargain for wages and benefits. Specifically, the proposed salary schedule would provide all controllers with an immediate $10,000 across-the-board pay increase and an automatic annual pay increase of 10 percent. It also accelerates the within grade advancement system by allowing controllers to receive annual step increases. The annual pay increase and the additional semiannual increases in basic pay indexed to the consumer price index would be much greater than increases granted to other federal employees. The bill would reduce the controllers' basic workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours. Time in excess of this would be payable at overtime rates. GAO does not believe there is adequate justification for the government to adopt a shorter workweek for controllers, especially in view of the additional cost that would be involved. Under the provisions of the bill, an air traffic controller could retire at a higher annuity than his highest annual gross salary. The bill would allow the controllers the right to bargain collectively for wages, hours, conditions of employment, and the rate of accrual of annual and sick leave. It also provides them the right to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining. The term concerted activities traditionally has been interpreted in the personnel and labor relations fields as meaning the right to strike. If this is the purpose of the bill, GAO does not believe this provision would be sound public policy. GAO cannot support the enactment of the bill. GAO knows of no justification for the generous and costly changes that the bill proposes. Furthermore, the cumulative effect of all the proposed changes in the bill would essentially make controllers unrecognizable as federal employees by exempting them from most of the provisions in title 5 of the U.S. Code that govern other federal employees.

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