Partnership with union helps NATS cut delays

National
Air Traffic Services (NATS) has cut travel delays and avoided industrial action
after working with unions and listening more closely to its staff.

The
organisation, which controls the journeys of most of the UK’s aircraft, has
built a partnership with controllers’ union Prospect, following a torrid year
in 2002 when it faced staff shortages, the threat of strike action and
significant flight delays.

The
problems were compounded by the former public sector organisation’s transfer to
private sector status as well as the relocation of many staff to the new
high-tech control centre at Swanwick, Hampshire.

However,
after adopting a more consultative approach to employee relations, NATS has
managed to slash delays from an average of 2.6 minutes per flight handled by
its controllers last year to just 1.5 minutes this year.

Staff
shortages were eased after NATS agreed a new system of additional voluntary
overtime by working closely with Prospect.

The
organisation also put up a graffiti board to enable staff to highlight
grievances anonymously and make suggestions, which were then passed on to a
management group to consider the solutions.

Paul
Louden, the general manager brought in to resolve the crisis, said the creation
of a new management team had resolved a lot of conflict between managers and
controllers.

"We
have built a new management team focusing more on the concerns of the people in
the ops room," he said.

"There
was a real need for us to start working with the unions. This approach has
helped us deliver much progress."

David
Luxton, Prospect’s national secretary, said the new approach was helping to
create a better culture, allowing staff to perform to their full potential.

"There
is a better service delivery now with an improved culture and dialogue between
managers and staff," he said.

By
Ross Wigham

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