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Air Controllers Join Nationwide Protest of Pay Cuts

June 23, 1995|PHUONG NGUYEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Complaining about a cost-cutting Congress, a dozen air traffic controllers at John Wayne Airport demonstrated Thursday against a proposal to reduce their wages by abolishing a salary incentive designed to attract top applicants.

Local controllers joined workers at airports across the United States in opposing salary and benefits cuts. They distributed flyers and urged airline passengers to sign petitions, send letters and make telephone calls to their representatives in Congress.

"We just want to get the information out to the public," said Howard Rifas, a controller at John Wayne Airport and a representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Assn.

The House of Representatives has approved a plan that threatens to repeal a provision in the Air Traffic Control Revitalization Act, enacted in 1983 to guarantee compensation for certain safety--related professions, Rifas said. The Senate has not yet voted on the plan.

The proposal would save $87 million by eliminating a 5% wage premium to controllers as well as airport mechanics, inspectors and maintenance employees, Rifas said. The proposal also calls for a reduction in health benefits for the workers and an increase in the amount they pay toward their retirement fund.

The savings are not worth the increased risk to the flying public, air traffic controllers said.

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