- Published: June 24, 2020
Dear PASS Sisters and Brothers:
On our call today with the FAA, it appears that there are still several areas of concern and confusion surrounding the agency’s approach to a return to normal operations that need clearing up. We are also hearing about inconsistent messaging from you in the field and on other calls with the agency regarding the phased return.
Training at the MMAC: The Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (MMAC) in Oklahoma City is scheduled to begin reopening the week of July 6. However, news reports and the agency’s dashboard reporting of a spike in cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma create doubts and the union’s position is that restarting training is problematic and we continue to have questions.
• Travel to the Academy is confusing. Many of you have expressed a desire to be able to drive to Oklahoma City when training resumes rather than fly. The vice president for technical operations told us today he intends to issue new guidance on this and that should allow driving as an option. However, some states are requiring a 14-day quarantine after travel to another state that is seeing a spike in new cases. With employees traveling to and from states with different levels of outbreak as well as local guidelines, having guidance from the FAA that is applied across the board could be problematic.
• While the MMAC reports that it has developed a comprehensive list of safety protocols, PASS has not seen it. We also asked today about temperature screening and more frequent cleaning of classrooms and equipment to keep students healthy. The agency assured us it will talk to the director of the MMAC about Oklahoma City-specific issues regarding the pandemic and the mitigation strategies in place. You won’t be living at the MMAC, nor taking all your meals there so it is necessary to understand the circumstances of the surrounding area and in the city. We have asked for the checklist and the specific plan that has been put in place for the Academy.
• We were told today that employees can volunteer to attend critical classes; those of you who are concerned about your own health and that of your family shouldn’t be forced to travel to a state where cases are increasing.
Cleaning materials not meeting standards: Thanks to a submission to PASS from a Region III member just this week, we were able to alert the agency that some cleaning and sanitization products in facilities are not being used properly. There is a brand of medical grade wipes (CaviWipes) in facilities that should only be used on hard surfaces while wearing gloves. It is NOT for hand sanitization. We urge all of you to look at the product usage guidelines if you are unfamiliar with it. If you discover a product in your facility that is not being used properly, please let PASS know.
High-risk employees: the FAA is still trying to standardize the process for employees to self-identify they are in a medically high-risk category for exposure to COVID-19. If your doctor can provide a note that confirms you are in such a category, that should be sufficient to keep you in a telework status if you are called back to the workplace. Specifics from your doctor about your medical condition are not necessary; however, the approach to this has not been consistent nationwide and we have asked to have this resolved. If you find that providing a doctor’s note to remain on telework is not being accepted, please let PASS know.
Maintenance Alert Update: We discussed the reports you are sending us of employees still being asked to perform work that is not critical. PASS is told at the national level that noncritical maintenance should not be taking place to limit exposure to the disease and to social distance. However, it is clear that this guidance is not reaching local management. The agency is working on a new maintenance alert that should be ready next week. The FAA agrees that limiting exposure for employees is the key. There will be a separate call next week with national managers to discuss this further.
Annual leave: While the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance to agency heads last week about restoration of annual leave and ‘use or lose’ leave, not all OPM guidance applies to our employees at the FAA since they are exempt from most of Title 5. We are in discussion with the agency over how the OPM guidance applies to you and hope to have information to share soon.
As I said at the outset, I’m skeptical that in-person training can resume in two weeks. In addition to your justified concerns about flying to Oklahoma City and putting yourself at risk for contracting the disease, you also have family obligations and arrangements to make if you need to attend training. The agency must keep this in mind as it plans to resume in-person training. Please continue to send your concerns to PASS so that we can address issues in real time.