NWS Submits new plan to FAA to Enhance Aviation Safety
The NWS delivered a plan to the FAA last week, designed to enhance aviation safety by providing 24/7 coverage to FAA Air Traffic Controllers for flight assists while maintaining face to face contact between NWS Meteorologists and Controllers during the busiest hours of the day. The new plan maintains staffing at CWSUs for 16 to 18 hours a day and places a hotline phone at supervisor stations to ring the Aviation Weather Center for flight assists at night. A new 24/7 forecast desk will be placed at the AWC and staffed with eight forecasters. In addition to providing flight assists at night, this desk will be responsible for the Collaborative Weather Impact Product and coordinating aviation forecasts around the country to maintain consistency. The plan also calls for three forecasters to be placed at the FAA’s Command Center for consultative support to increase the efficiency of the National Air Space.
This plan comes on the heels of an announcement of a National Weather Service experiment that will increase the staff levels in New York, Chicago and Atlanta WFOs to 13 operational forecasters. These forecasters will be responsible for two hour TAFs which will coincide with FAA two hourly briefs. These forecasters will also work closely with the local CWSU to provide new products and services to the Centers, TRACONs and Towers. Early results from the New York Area show astounding success in decreasing weather related aviation delays by 50 percent. “My hat is off to the NWS and Director Hayes,” stated Dan Sobien NWSEO President. “For a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, this plan saves the American public billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and fuel costs while helping the ecology. Most importantly it makes flying safer.” Sobien encourages the expansion of this plan to all WFOs with OEP airports and hopes the NWS will examine other programs where similar cost versus benefits could be realized. “Marine and Fire Weather programs could also use an influx of resources for a little remodeling,” concluded Sobien.
The plan was submitted to the FAA in place of a plan that was expected to be delivered in December 2009, calling for a test consolidation of CWSUs from 21 to two. The NWSEO coordinated the fight against CWSU consolidation with many aviation groups, as well as, members of Congress who strongly opposed the idea. “The voices of reason prevailed and safer air travel is the result,” stated John Stansfield, Steward of the Boston CWSU and longtime advocate for CWSUs.
NWS Quality of Work Life Team Commends NWSEO Fair Pay efforts for ASAs
The NWS Quality of Work Life Team commends NWSEO on their efforts to secure fair pay for ASAs and acknowledges the difficulty of retaining quality ASAs when other agencies pay more money for similar work. The acknowledgement was written in a letter to the National Labor Council and the Workforce Human Capital Committee of the NWS Corporate Board.
The work of NWSEO and NWS ASAs brought this issue to light. NWSEO sent a request to NOAA Deputy Undersecretary Mary Glackin requesting a review of ASA grades after several conversations with various NOAA and NWS management officials on the subject. “ASAs essentially do the work and have the responsibilities of much higher graded positions such as budgeting and property management, but they are not getting the proper pay because an MIC signs a paper saying the work is correct. Other agencies do not have this inherent unfairness and many NWS ASAs are leaving to work at those agencies,” stated NWSEO President Sobien.
NOAA has been in contact with the NWSEO about doing an informal desk audit to identify the problems. The NWS Quality of Work Life team has offered to assist in the audit. “This audit is a good first step,” stated Sobien. “Hopefully the process can be expedited so we don’t lose any more NWS employees.” The NWSEO submitted the names of several NWSEO brothers and sisters who are ASAs to assist in the audit.
The audit is the result of a grass root effort by NWSEO members who are ASAs. “The ASAs got together and pushed an issue that was not on the radar,” stated Sobien. “At the annual NWSEO convention, the ASAs sent a representative who presented each union officer with a 3-inch thick document that conclusively shows the discrimination. I am very proud of how they organized to push the issue. It is proof of the power employees have when they organize and speak with one voice.”
Federal Employees to Receive Retirement Credit in for Unused Sick Leave
Federal employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System will receive credit for their unused sick leave in their retirement calculations. President Barack Obama signed the provision, which is part of the 2010 Defense Authorization Act, into law last week.
Under the measure, which takes effect immediately, employees who retire before January 1, 2014 will receive half of their banked sick leave. Those who retire after January 1, 2014 will receive 100 percent of their unused leave credited toward their annuities. Be aware, the law credits only those employees who take an immediate annuity. Employees who retire now but delay benefits until years later, under a deferred or delayed retirement, will not get credit for unused sick leave.
The OPM estimates that employees taking excessive sick leave cost the government $68 million a year in lost productivity. Many long term FERS employees take excessive leave late in their careers to take advantage of the benefit. The change gives employees a monetary incentive to bank their sick leave and this, in turn, may increase employee attendance and productivity.