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Washington » Government air-traffic controllers and the Obama administration have reached a tentative contract agreement that both sides said they hope will end years of severely strained relations.
Arbitrators recently decided a handful of remaining issues involving pay and vacation time, clearing the way for Thursday's contract announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Union members have 45 days to ratify the contract.
President Barack Obama told controllers when he was running for the White House that he would address their problems with FAA. Earlier this year, he appointed former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, who is popular with controllers, to oversee negotiations.
The nation's more than 15,000 controllers have been working without a contract since 2005. Relations with the government have been erratic over the years, never more strained than when President Ronald Reagan fired about 11,500 controllers in 1981 for refusing to end a strike and return to work.
Patrick Forrey, president of NATCA, said in a statement that the agreement marks a turning point in controllers' relations with the FAA. He thanked Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for bringing the two sides together.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt also said the agreement signals "a new spirit of cooperation."