"A reduced workweek -- that's the key," said one veteran air traffic controller at Logan International Airport in Boston, the 10th-busiest in the United States. "We want to cut back on some of the stress. At any given time, you're talking about a billion dollars of equipment -- and thousands of lives."
For this controller, and others like him who may have to guide 300 or more planes a day in and out of large metropolitan airports, the strike was made necessary because their union and the federal government could not agree on one or more of the following issues:
* A pay increase. The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization seeks a $10,000 across-the-board raise for all members. This would mean a new pay scale ranging from $30,500 for those who work at smaller, less active airports to $59,000 for the most experienced controllers at the country's busiest facilities.
* A shorter workweek. Controllers have been working 40-hour weeks; they want that reduced to 32 hours.
* An increased differential between day and nighttime rates of pay. At present, the nightime rate is 10 percent higher.
* Exemption of nighttime, Sunday, and holiday premier pay from a ceiling on federal workers' wages.
* Improved retirement benefits.
* Severence pay and retraining benefits. The union wants certain medically disqualified members to be eligible for severence pay or for 3 1/2 months of retraining at federal expense.
* The right to a voice in choosing new air traffic control equipment and in formulating new procedures.