Federal Aviation Administration employees in Georgia are working without pay this week while the government’s shut down. Air traffic controllers are worrying about making ends meet with paychecks. But that’s not all.
Some FAA employees in Georgia are deemed essential and are working at airports and control centers around the state.
The rest are staying home.
But either way, no one’s collecting a paycheck, says Victor Santore.
The Atlanta-based union representative and air traffic controller says there’s something else bothering them: safety. He says America has the safest air traffic system in the world for a reason.
“It’s not that two aircraft are at risk of collision,” he says. “But the people who support the air traffic control system and maintain the equipment and who coordinate changes in air space and procedures -- all those people aren’t here. It erodes the margin of safety when you don’t have the full team.”
With Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport still the world’s busiest airport, the FAA’s operations in Georgia are critical. Santore says the agency was about to lift a hiring freeze just before the government shutdown. Meanwhile, 3,000 FAA air traffic controllers are eligible to retire. He says some may opt to end their careers now if the shutdown drags on.
The FAA workers who are at home this week may never recover their lost pay.
Santore says while essential workers who are on the job will probably collect pay eventually, that’s unlikely for the others.
“The people who are not “excepted” and who are told, ‘Go home, you’re not going to be paid,’ may never be paid again,” he says. “Depending on how long the government is shut down, right now those people are four days without pay. And as we go into the weekend, nothing is probably going to happen over the weekend, so a few more days without pay.”
FAA workers can still access healthcare and other benefits.