FAA Staffing:

The Air Traffic Control Work Force Opposes Rehiring Fired Controllers

RCED-87-32BR: Published: Oct 9, 1986. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO surveyed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) air traffic controllers and facility managers, and fired air traffic controllers, on issues relating to the rehiring of controllers FAA fired after the controllers' strike in 1981, focusing on: (1) sentiment among the FAA work force about rehiring; (2) what has happened to fired controllers since the strike; and (3) whether fired controllers were interested in returning to FAA.

GAO found that: (1) 60 percent of the surveyed controllers, and 85 percent of the surveyed facility managers, opposed rehiring any fired controllers, citing such reasons as negative morale impact, the difficulty of establishing fair rehiring procedures, and possible bad relations between striking and non-striking controllers; (2) those who supported rehiring cited such reasons as a lack of experienced staff, the number of highly qualified controllers who were fired, and the possible impact of union pressure on some controllers' decisions to strike; and (3) many respondents would favor rehiring fired controllers with such restrictions as probationary periods, no back pay, job protection for current controllers, and use of rehired controllers to alleviate staffing problems. GAO also found that: (1) about 97 percent of the fired controllers were employed; (2) most fired controllers were making less money than they did at FAA; (3) 23 percent of the fired controllers had to relocate to find work, 13 percent lost their homes, 64 percent were denied employment as a direct result of the strike, and many received various forms of government benefits; (4) 94 percent of the fired controllers expressed an interest in returning to FAA, citing such reasons as a desire to contribute to the air traffic control system, the ease of retraining and recertification, and their perceived ability to relate well with current controllers; and (5) those who did not wish to return cited such reasons as the FAA failure to improve the system, their new careers, and the lack of a controllers' union.

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