History of IFATCA - The Second Decade

The second decade was destined to be an entirely different affair. It commenced in the shadow of continuing and escalating industrial activity and threatening politics. Despite its charter, IFATCA was unable to remain aloof. The decade’s first conference (Athens) saw so many Human and Environmental Factors subjects on the agenda that a special sub-Committee A was deemed necessary. This sub-committee morphed into Committee C a year later in Dublin. This conference saw the election of Jean- Daniel Monin as President.

Monin was to become deeply involved in both industrial disputation and politics throughout his 3 terms. 1973 saw two serious back-to-back industrial disputes in France and Germany. The French strike saw replacement military controllers utilised and President Monin giving press interviews and making appeals to the President of France. Sadly it was brought to a conclusion by a midair collision and the death of 68 people on board one of the aircraft. All dismissed controllers were eventually rehired. The go-slow action in Germany caused havoc and, despite achieving a measure of success with the Bonn government, Monin saw the dispute end with the German Association levied with severe punitive fines. Whilst these events were transpiring, the Federation held its most significant conference since its formation. Reykjavik (1973) saw sweeping constitutional changes, a changed Executive Board structure and formation of the Executive Council. There were also lengthy debates on the question of one State/one MA (viz the dual American Associations’ applications) and the EGATS affiliation.

And then the hi-jacking epidemic commenced. In several countries controllers were placed under severe pressures as they faced this new scourge to international aviation. IFATCA faced the issue squarely and The Controller provided controllers with international and national statutes on piracy and comprehensive details on related aspects of international law. With this as a backdrop, discussions on confirmation of Tel Aviv for the ’74 conference entered new realms. Loud and many were the calls for this venue to be cancelled because of the geopolitics being played out. But IFATCA’s EB quite correctly carefully avoided making a decision based on political considerations and relied solely upon IFATCA rules and procedures in deciding that it was not constitutionally possible to alter a decision which had been made by Directors at the 1972 conference and confirmed in 1973. It is history that a very successful (and, for the first time, outsourced) conference was held.

In 1974, a preparatory meeting for the ‘identification of social and labour problems and scope for ILO action in the field of civil aviation’. Indicating another serious step up in recognition (despite some objections from participating States), IFATCA also represented the ‘workers’ at a tri-partite meeting in late 1977. From this meeting of ICAO, ILO and IFATCA sprang the most important event the Federation was associated with in its then 18 year history. May 1979 saw the ILO’s ‘Meeting of Experts with but a single agenda item: Problems Concerning Air Traffic Controllers – Identification and Possible Solutions. The ILO immediately signalled that they were looking to the real experts (ie, the controllers themselves) for authoritative opinions and concrete proposals. IFATCA delivered and laid major emphasis on human and social conditions in ATC. The meeting settled upon no less than 52 conclusions which covered every professional aspect of an ATCO’s employment. The Conclusions provided a broad definition of the needs of the controller and conferred upon their employers the onus to provide and allow them. These Conclusions have subsequently formed the basis or provided the background for almost every ATC claim in the world.

In 1975, the Federation made a giant leap for IFATCA-kind with success over the IATA 200 issue. Two of the Federation’s 3 largest MAs had now withdrawn. There were now big professional and financial holes to fill and it took some years of belt-tightening before the Federation was back on its financial feet. The second decade ended, as had the first, with a conference in Canada, this time in Toronto. (The Canadian Association did a magnificent job in just 9 weeks due to a late notice change of venue.) But the decade also ended as it started with major industrial disputes. The 1970s were plagued by ‘air traffic delays’ throughout Europe as controllers took various actions to compensate for low controller numbers and aging inadequate equipment. In addition to the French, German and Canadian actions already mentioned, there were also significant disputations in Spain, Australia,Mexico, Italy and Greece. Air traffic controllers were not happy!