MASS RETIREMENTS IN AIR TRAFFIC SERVICES
WILL THERE BE ENOUGH LEFT?
On 8 July 2021, Airservices confirmed that the ATO had approved a Retirement Incentive Scheme (RIS) for employees aged between 56 and 65 employed on the ATC and Supporting Services and ALM Enterprise Agreements. Between October 2021 and June 2022, over 140 ATCs and crucial supporting staff will depart Airservices under the RIS – many of whom are retiring years earlier than anticipated and planned for.
The RIS program comes shortly after departures from Airservices by employees on the Airservices Corporate Agreement through voluntary redundancy. Most notably, many Initial Training instructors left the organisation, calling into question the ability of Airservices to train future recruits. This is all occurring during a period whereby air traffic is projected to ramp up rapidly as both domestic and international border restrictions are eased.
Understandably, questions are being asked by the remaining staff who are left to deal with the impact of imminent departures upon their roster groups. The holes in rosters and the need to train a significant number of new air traffic controllers to replace those who have left is a concern for Civil Air and its members.
Already, Civil Air is aware that some ATC work locations are having to increasingly rely upon overtime to ensure operations can continue uninterrupted each day. A system that relies on high amounts of overtime is unsustainable in the medium-to-long term.
As traffic movements continue to increase in the coming years, operational staffing levels will be under increasing pressure and there will be limited capacity for controllers to be released from the operational environment to become ATS Instructors in support of the training pipeline. Additionally, Airservices have flagged further organisational changes that will place even more of a burden on training loads, including;
- Proposed relocation of 65 Sydney approach controllers to Melbourne; and
- Proposed changes to the airspace structure along the east coast of Australia; and
- Planned transition to the Civil Military Air Traffic Management System (CMATS).
Civil Air has provided consistent feedback to Airservices that the combined departures in both the Initial Training and operational areas is concerning. The high volume of departures does not support the ability for the organisation to train the required number of new air traffic controllers to replace retirements and prepare for the impending transition to the Civil Military Air Traffic Management System (CMATS).
Whilst Airservices has assured Civil Air that plans are in place to handle this significant training load, no information has been provided on how they expect to achieve this.
Published: 03 Dec 2021
Peter McGuane, Executive Secretary, Civil Air
T 03 9647 9100