POLITICS
01/04/2019 12:03 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2019

Air Travel Less Safe Amid Government Shutdown, Union Leaders, Inspectors Warn

"This shutdown must end now," National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi said.

Federal workers in charge of making sure citizens stay safe while flying said air travel has become more dangerous amid a government shutdown forced by President Donald Trump.

The shutdown, which began Dec. 22 after Trump demanded $5 billion for a useless border wall, has led to more than 3,000 support workers being furloughed while more than 10,000 air traffic controllers continue to work without pay, according to The Washington Post.

Furloughed safety inspectors said planes that haven’t been inspected for two weeks are still being used to transport passengers.

“We are another layer of safety,” safety inspector Troy Tomey, 52, told the Miami Herald as he protested with other furloughed workers outside Miami International Airport on Thursday. “We’re the last check of the box. Taking us out of it, mistakes can happen.”

On the day of the shutdown, union leaders with the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists warned that Congress would need to act fast to get inspectors back to work.

“Furloughing this critical workforce during the busy holiday travel season is neither in the best interest of the nation’s economy nor the oversight of the U.S. aviation system,” the union said in a statement at the time. 

Union leaders at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) are encouraging its members to call their representatives in Congress to ask for an end to the shutdown.

“Even though air traffic controllers and traffic management coordinators remain on the job, dedicated to the safety of every flight, they don’t know when they’ll receive their next paycheck and that adds more stress to an already stressful profession,” the NATCA said in a statement. “This shutdown and the resulting furloughs are rapidly eliminating the layers of redundancy and safety on which the NATCA is built.” 

The union also said hiring and training delays have worsened among the crisis.

“This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown almost certainly will make a bad situation worse,” NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said in a statement. “Even before the shutdown, controllers have needed to work longer and harder to make up for the staffing shortfall. Overtime in the form of six-day weeks and 10-hour days is common at many of the nation’s busiest and most short-staffed facilities including radar facilities in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas. And none of the controllers forced to work during this shutdown will see pay for their hard work to keep travelers safe until the shutdown ends. This shutdown must end now.”

Trump’s desperation for a border wall will be further hampered after Democrats took control of the House on Thursday. They have vowed not to give him any money for his wall.

HuffPost readers: Are you affected by the government shutdown? Email us about it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please provide a phone number.

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