Chile ATCO working conditions causes serious concern for IFATCA

In 1999, the air traffic controllers of Chile proudly welcomed their colleagues to Santiago for the 38th Annual Conference of the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations. This conference signalled Chiles intention to improve its ATM system to ensure the provision of safe, secure and efficient air traffic services. Sadly, IFATCA, now representing over 50,000 air traffic controllers in more than 130 countries, has learnt that Chile, like too many other countries in the region, has stalled in this pursuit, and may even have reversed course.
Our member association, the College of Air Traffic Controllers of Chile have reported unfavourable working conditions that include a shortage of personnel such that it is not possible to perform necessary training; there are no refresher courses; vacation and necessary rest breaks are cut or denied by the authorities; a retirement system that does not ensure an adequate pension; and contractual inequality with different types of contracts in the same unit. Further, equipment is operated without the necessary maintenance and support; the training school has inadequate resources, and retired controllers are brought back on duty to meet shortages. Even more damning, the authorities may have ignored a study documenting serious human factors effects, such as stress, on the staff. As a result, highly trained air traffic controllers have left these low wages and poor working conditions for employment in other area of the public and private sectors with better working conditions.

IFATCA reminds the appropriate authorities in Chile that the International Labour Organization (ILO) has recognized Air Traffic Control as a highly specialized profession, which requires different working conditions, states Alexis Brathwaite, IFATCA President and CEO. Our member associations around the world strive to work with their authorities to maintain mutually agreed working conditions appropriate to the profession. These are specifically defined to ensure the safety of air operations, with minimum and maximum working hours, limited overtime, legally regulated breaks and vacation periods that allow recovery and manages the risk of fatigue; provides job security, opportunities for career progression and the level of job satisfaction that ensures that professional services are provided at all times by highly motivated staff.

I am certain that the Air Traffic Controllers in Chile, like their colleagues around the world, seek to maintain the highest standard of safety and efficiency, remarked Mr. Brathwaite. However, compromised working conditions will compromise the ability of even the most highly committed professionals, continued Mr. Brathwaite, Given the growth being experienced by the aviation industry in Chile, the risks to safety are exacerbated if the situation is not improved immediately.

Thus IFATCA calls on the Aviation Community of Chile, the various stakeholders of the aviation system and users of the air navigation services, especially government authorities, to give special attention to the regulations governing the work of air traffic controllers in Chile and implement the appropriate improvements to achieve the necessary standards of aviation safety. This and only this would fulfill the promise and hopes that sprung from 1999 when Chile sought to take its place among States providing an ATM system that rigorously meets international standards without compromise.
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