NATCA Issues Statement On Sick Calls

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The leadership of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has distanced itself from any notion that a staff shortage that caused delays at some East Coast airports on Friday was orchestrated to pressure the government to end the shutdown. The union issued a statement shortly after an uptick in sick calls at Washington Center reduced system capacity and caused delays and a temporary ground stop for traffic headed to LaGuardia Airport. “NATCA does not condone or endorse any federal employees participating in or endorsing a coordinated activity that negatively affects the capacity of the National Airspace System or other activities that undermine the professional image and reputation of the men and women we represent,” President Paul Rinaldi said in the statement. “Air traffic controllers take their responsibility to protect the safety of the flying public at all costs very seriously. Nothing else matters except safety.”

Shortly after the statement was issued, President Donald Trump announced that he would sign bills that would end the 35-day shutdown. It was widely speculated that the relatively modest disruption in airline service was the tipping point for legislators to take a time out from the hard-line posturing that led to controllers and 800,000 other government employees missing two paychecks. NATCA has now joined all government employee organizations in calling for a diplomatic resolution before the current funding bill expires on Feb. 15. “Although the news today is positive, we must not lose focus on the short-term nature of this agreement, and the need to continue to make our voice heard to avoid another shutdown on Feb. 15, 2019,” he said in a statement issued later on Friday.