Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts and a Suggestion from a Veteran Controller

Remember, this blog is for my personal reflection. Regulars who frequent here will likely find what I've written below to be repetitive. I make no apology. In following through on my last post I've penned the following and sent it to Administrator Babbitt. Thanks to Rob at work for his help in keeping it focused.

Administrator Babbitt,

My name is Kevin Gilmore and I'm a controller at MSP ARTCC. I've been with the agency since March 1982 and I also served in the U.S.N. for 4 years in the mid to late '70s. I've been around a while.

I first want to thank you for your efforts in getting us a ratified contract to work under. The imposed work rules did more to wreck employee morale than I ever imagined possible. I was a 'company man' just a few short years ago but today I find myself disillusioned with my employer and struggling to find any remaining respect for management. Mentally, it's not a place I enjoy being, but it's where I am. There are so many others who echo my sentiments.

If you're determined to improve employee morale I have a suggestion for you, but first, allow me to preface it by making some observations.

Your management ranks are overstaffed and made of up of too many individuals with very limited time actually working traffic on their own. They often trained for a few years and then only made it a year or two on the boards before leaving for the safety of a desk. More pay for easier, less stressful work; what a deal, but not one that inspires confidence in the workforce.

I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where our area manager told us that he felt the highest-paid controller should earn less than the least paid supervisor. It's this sort of condescending attitude that still has a stronghold in our agency and it serves no useful purpose.

This same manager went on to say that he's paid more than us because he has a more responsible position but I don't recall him or any other manager stepping forward and accepting responsibility for their failures during the NWA188 NORDO incident which sullied our public image.

I'm frustrated by what I see happening around me; please don't read anger into my words.

I believe that those who have been paying attention in the general public share the workforces dim view of FAA management. Certainly, management's image took a deserved beating with the unnecessary and wasteful contract training in Atlanta that was exposed on ABC News last month. My advice to you will help with that image.

Mr. Babbitt, it's my strong suggestion that you impose a 3-year pay freeze for personnel in air traffic management and staff just as was done to controllers, the people on the razor's edge of critical decision making. If you're concerned that such a move would cause a mass exodus from management ranks, let me assure you that it wouldn't because as I said earlier, too many of those in management ran for the cover of desk jobs and they're not about to give them up. Consider when Pay Reclass was enacted in 1998 and controller/management pay was much more comparable; there was no lack of people to staff management positions then.

My base pay is more than 16k less than a person whom I was paid equally to (due to my pay being frozen for 3 years) before the imposed work rules. I'm quite sure that had pay been frozen equally across the board there would've been little to no complaints from the workforce and no lingering resentment. But, considering the unfair way in which controllers were singled out as the only means for reigning in costs, animosity over our treatment remains.

Please study what sort of cost savings could be realized by a 3-year pay freeze for management and staff specialists. Trust me when I tell you that such a move would go a long way toward improving employee morale and heading us in a new direction where we can begin to act more as a team and less like adversaries.

You couldn't ask for more ideal circumstances to move forward with such a proposal given the dire fiscal situation we find ourselves not only within the FAA but also overall government spending. I'm quite sure that people all across America would applaud a move by you to enact a pay freeze for management; certainly, President Obama would.

Mr. Babbitt, controllers both young and old are in need of leadership that embraces fairness in the workplace. I urge you to give serious consideration to my suggestion because I believe a move in this direction is not only timely, given our current state of affairs, but also overdue.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Kevin Gilmore


John A Hill said...

I like it.

Tim said...

Looks like anger, smells like anger; must be anger.

I wish I was eligible to retire... ;-)

Kevin Gilmore said...

Things get broken when I get angry, Tim. I've not even scratched anything yet.

Tim said...

Oh, but you've broken their hearts, Kev! You used to be such a good employee.

Here's another angry ginger for you.

Kevin Gilmore said...

Oohhh...that kid's kinda creepy.

Anonymous said...

Did Babbitt reply?

Kevin Gilmore said...

No, he never replied. It would've been nice to have received a 'thank you for your input' kind of message but he didn't. I have no idea if he ever even saw it.