What happened to work ethic?
An Air Traffic Controller at Seattle's Boeing Field had already been caught twice sleeping while on duty when his work-time naps got him in trouble a third time.
Another Air Traffic Controller opted to watch a movie to speed up the workday and alleviate boredom.
Yet others complain they need special consideration to allow designated nap times and work-time movies because the job is stressful and unusually demanding. They say they need a stand-in in case a little rest and recreation becomes necessary.
Many of us hold the belief that controlling air traffic can only be done by the most elite among us and that ATCs, because of their work, should be allowed to get away with behavior that would not be tolerated with a regular job. When asked, it was surprising how many people felt sympathy for those sleeping while on duty because they thought the job was special.
My first reaction when hearing this news was to invoke the spirit of Ronald Reagan. Our beloved President held no illusions about Air Traffic Controllers. To him, the people who supervise aircraft in flight did a job like everyone else and got paid well for the service. He believed no one forced them to do the job and there was always a replacement eagerly waiting for the opportunity to take their place. Their job was essential to public safety but not so special it was hard to find people to do it.
In 1981, thousands of ATCs walked off the job at the busiest time of the year for air travel in the belief that their skills were irreplaceable to the nation. They, through their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) tried to strong-arm concessions from the Federal Aviation Administration because they said they deserved special considerations due to the highly stressful nature of their very important work. PATCO president Robert Poli, demanded an across-the-board wage increase of $10,000/year for controllers whose pay ranged from $20,462 to $49,229; the reduction of a five-day, 40-hour work week to a four-day, 32-hour work week; and full retirement after 20 years service -- a package with a 1981 price tag of $770 million.
President Ronald Reagan, knew that if the ATC union succeeded with their demands it would open the way for other federal employee unions to demand the same. He understood something the Air Traffic Controllers failed to appreciate, that they were important but not indispensable. So, after ignoring his order to return to work, he fired all those on strike. And surprise, aircraft landed just as safely without them, it's just that other people made it happen.
Many of those PATCO union members that were fired in 1981, are still trying to get their jobs back now, even after President Bill Clinton rescinded Reagan's lifetime ban, they still have failed to wipe the slate clean. The striking controllers have come to realize that they had it pretty good. Many found it impossible to earn close to what they had been. Reagan was right, their demands were unreasonable and it took very firm action to make them wake up.
Is a wake-up call what controllers need now?
Today there is talk of giving ATCs designated nap periods. Medical specialists have pronounced it as the only way to ensure safety. They also say that there should never be just one ATC on duty and that the cost of two is justified in case one nods off.
Can anyone else see the flaw in this logic.
It can reasonably be expected that an employee, even a government employee, be alert while on the job. It can also be expected that the employee be fit for the task they are being paid for. Most of us know what we need to do to be prepared for work. If being an Air Traffic Controller means that they should sleep prior to working, it is part of the reasonable expectation of being an ATC. If they cannot sleep prior to working, they should not be an Air Traffic Controller.
Some jobs require more commitment than others. Usually commitment is directly related to pay. If it wasn't that way no one would take the responsible jobs. Air Traffic Controllers have a responsible job which requires them to be alert at all times and concentrate on the tasks for which they are being paid. If they fail to do that they should be fired. If they can't do that they should find a job they can do.
Ronald Reagan knew how to keep them awake.
That's what I think. What do you think?
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