Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - SOLOMON IS­RAEL­[email protected]­ @sol_is­rael

Cana­dian air traf­fic con­trollers, in­clud­ing those in Win­nipeg, have been treat­ing their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts to free pizza din­ners as show of sol­i­dar­ity since the lat­ter have been work­ing with­out pay dur­ing the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down south of the bor­der /

AIR traf­fic con­trollers in Win­nipeg have been sling­ing pizza pies to their coun­ter­parts in Min­nesota, a morale­boost­ing ges­ture of sol­i­dar­ity in the face of a U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down that’s forc­ing Amer­i­can air traf­fic con­trollers to work with­out pay.

Six­teen ex­tra-large piz­zas were de­liv­ered to evening shift work­ers at the Min­neapo­lis Air Route Traf­fic Con­trol Cen­ter in Farm­ing­ton, Minn., Fri­day night, cour­tesy of their col­leagues in Win­nipeg.

“There was plenty of food for ev­ery­one, it was re­ally a nice ges­ture to pick up some spir­its,” said Tony Walsh, the fa­cil­ity’s union rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Na­tional Air Traf­fic Con­trollers As­so­ci­a­tion (NATCA), which rep­re­sents air traf­fic con­trollers in the U.S.

Walsh and his co-work­ers ex­pect to miss their first pay­cheque this com­ing Tues­day, as the par­tial shut­down of the U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment runs into its fourth week. Since air traf­fic con­trollers, who work for the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, are con­sid­ered es­sen­tial gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees, they must work even though the gov­ern­ment can’t is­sue their pay­cheques. (NATCA is su­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment over the sit­u­a­tion.)

Win­nipeg flight con­trollers have also sent pizza to three other air traf­fic con­trol cen­tres in Min­nesota so far, ac­cord­ing to Peter Duffy, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Cana­dian Air Traf­fic Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion. The union rep­re­sents 1,950 air traf­fic con­trollers across Canada, in­clud­ing 186 in Man­i­toba.

Win­nipeg­gers aren’t the only Cana­dian air traf­fic con­trollers get­ting into the pizza delivery game.

The trend started with con­trollers in Ed­mon­ton, who sent pizza to con­trollers in An­chor­age, Alaska, said Duffy. So far, 33 air traf­fic con­trol units across the U.S. have re­ceived pizza from Cana­di­ans, he said.

“It’s taken on a life of its own. As a mat­ter of fact, I just heard that one in­di­vid­ual per­son in Van­cou­ver bought lunch for an en­tire build­ing in the U.S., and that was just one per­son.”

Even though Amer­i­can and Cana­dian air traf­fic con­trollers work for dif­fer­ent em­ploy­ers and belong to dif­fer­ent unions, Duffy said, they feel like col­leagues “be­cause ev­ery sin­gle day, we push these lit­tle but­tons and talk to these peo­ple.”

Work­ing so closely to­gether cre­ates “a bit of a fra­ter­nity” in the in­ter­na­tional air traf­fic con­trol scene, he said.

“And it re­ally is some­thing that we have de­vel­oped fan­tas­tic in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ships with other unions.”

NAV Canada, which op­er­ates Canada’s air traf­fic ser­vice, is “very proud of our con­trollers for their thought­ful­ness in help­ing out their col­leagues in the U.S.,” said na­tional man­ager of me­dia re­la­tions Ron Singer.

Down in Min­nesota, Tony Walsh said he wanted to thank Win­nipeg’s air traf­fic con­trollers for their sup­port and sol­i­dar­ity.

“It’s re­ally been great to see the sil­ver lin­ing of the sit­u­a­tion that we’re in right now,” he said.


Con­trollers at the Min­neapo­lis Air Route Traf­fic Con­trol Cen­ter en­joy­ing pizza com­pli­ments of their coun­ter­parts in Win­nipeg.

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