ITF and IFATCA agree joint approach on organising industrial action

May 17, 2013

The annual conference of IFATCA (the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations) in Indonesia at the end of April brought the ITF and IFATCA together to build on their 2007 memorandum and strengthen future working.

The ITF was represented by general secretary David Cockroft, air traffic management adviser Joe Magee and chair of the air traffic management committee Greg Myles. Cockroft was invited by IFATCA president Alexis Braithwaite, following his efforts to resolve issues arising in 2012 between the ITF’s European arm, the ETF, and IFATCA’s European region over the social dimension of the Single European Sky project within the EU. 

The relationship between the ITF and IFATCA is based on a memorandum signed in March 2007 which established that ITF leads on industrial issues while IFATCA leads on professional issues. This has worked well worldwide, except within the EU, where the growing integration of air traffic services means that industrial and professional issues often overlap.

David Cockroft commented: “By the end of the conference, we had committed ourselves to a close working relationship and joint action between the ETF and IFATCA Europe. We had begun the outline of organising projects for air traffic controllers in both Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. And we had agreed to establish a joint ITF IFATCA working group on challenges to organising effective industrial action on air traffic control. 

“In future the ITF and IFATCA will work even more closely together to ensure that strong, democratic labour organisations exist for air traffic management personnel in every region of the world.”

IFATCA is made up of associations around the globe, some being trade unions or part of larger aviation or transport unions while some are professional bodies, often with military connections. Whenever a government wants to impose 'essential services' restrictions on unions, air traffic control is among the first of its targets. 

During the IFATCA conference, US air controllers faced a huge industrial challenge as Congress voted, as part of the budget reduction crisis, to sequestrate ATC funding and to put all controllers, who are members of the ITF and IFATCA affiliated national Air Traffic Controllers Association, on compulsory unpaid leave for one day every two weeks. Demands by the ITF and its US affiliates the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists that the sequestration be lifted in the interests of workers’ and passengers’ safety throughout the USA resulted in Congress agreeing to lift the sequestration and end the furloughs on 26 April.  

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