With the IRS union warnings that workers might not show up, claiming “hardship” after a month without pay, and the air travel union warning of “unprecedented” safety risks, Americans begin wondering if they’re a developed nation at all as political parties play at belligerence in a government shutdown circus that sees no end in sight.
On Wednesday, air travel union leaders issued a joint statement, expressing “growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public”, saying that the system may be about to crack.
“In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented,” read the joint statement by the heads of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
Speaking to WGNTV, Dan Carrico, president of the NATCA at O-Hare International Airport, said: “If this continues, we're going to see a catastrophic failure in the system. I can't tell you when, or how, but I can tell you that the stress and the fatigue that my air controllers at O'Hare are experiencing, and throughout the country, it's going to lead to us to miss something."
The statement comes three days after the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) announced that 10 percent of employees had called in sick and some airports had been forced to close down security checkpoints.
But it’s far from just the TSA ‘sick days’ troubling the air travel unions. They’re also having trouble staffing air traffic control facilities with staffing at a three-decade low right now due to the government shutdown, which has now entered its 34th day. And hiring has been frozen by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“As union leaders, we find it unconscionable that aviation professionals are being asked to work without pay and in an air safety environment that is deteriorating by the day. To avoid disruption to our aviation system, we urge Congress and the White House to take all necessary steps to end this shutdown immediately,” the statement said.
Among some 800,000 Federal employees furloughed by the record-breaking government shutdown, the IRS is also feeling the pinch, with its workers union warning that furloughed employees might not be back at work next week to start on tax refunds. They’re claiming financial hardship because they’re not being paid—and this is allowable under their employment contract.
On Wednesday, the union said its members were experiencing “real hardship”, and Trump’s promises that tax returns will go out as usual may not be realized.
“After a month with no pay, real hardship does exist for IRS employees including not having the money needed to get back and forth to work or to pay for the child care necessary to return to work right now,” Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. The NTEU represents about 70,000 IRS workers.
The bottom line? Around 800,000 Federal employees are facing hardship, air travel may not be safe and you might not get your tax refund … It’s a setup of uncertainty that the markets—already reeling from fears of a global growth slowdown and trade war tensions—won’t like at all.
As the shutdown entered its 34th day, airline stocks, for one, are nervous. While strong earnings report are giving them a boost so far, the shutdown is a major concern. In its earnings report last week, Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) warned about the shutdown’s potential impact on results.
In the meantime, let the show go on—because it is, after all, a show.
A CBS News poll released Wednesday showed Trump with an approval rating of only 36 percent, with 71 percent of Americans saying a $5-billion border wall with Mexico isn’t worth the longest government shutdown in history.
At the end of the day, if air travel is shut down over safety reasons, the farthest we’ll be able to travel is Canada … or Mexico.
By Charles Benavidez for Safehaven.com
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