‘Essential’ flights resume at Tirana airport after strike
Albanian infrastructure minister said Thursday that “essential” flights had resumed at the country’s only international airport following a strike by air traffic controllers.
Belinda Balluku said humanitarian, emergency, medical, diplomatic, state and military flights have resumed, while commercial flights will begin on Friday morning.
It is not known whether the strikers have returned to work. The Ministry of Infrastructure did not comment on local media reports that air traffic controllers were brought in from Turkey.
Around 20 Albanian air traffic controllers have been questioned by the police on suspicion of job abuse following their strike over a wage dispute, a lawyer and the prosecution announced on Thursday.
The Albanian government on Wednesday sent troops and police to evacuate the striking controllers from the flight control tower and their offices.
Twenty-four controllers, out of a total of 65, were questioned by police overnight, according to lawyer Rezart Kthupi.
Tirana’s prosecutor’s office said that if they were charged and convicted of abuse of post, they could face up to seven years in prison.
The airport suspended 19 flights on Wednesday. Civilian air traffic controllers had avoided calling their action a strike – which they are not allowed to undertake under Albanian law – by saying instead that they would be unable to “work under stress” for 24 hours at a time. from Wednesday morning.
The first plane landed around lunchtime, bringing a batch of vaccine against the virus that was due to arrive in the country the night before.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said the strike was illegal.
“There is no chance that the destructive forces, the absolutely blind forces, the forces of the past who want by all means to take the country hostage, (are going) to stop us,” he said during a meeting with supporters in southern Albania.
The controllers union says their pay has been cut by 62% over the past year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the same period, Albania’s air traffic fell 57%, according to Balluku.
The minister said air traffic controllers were paid $ 2,490 per month, five times the country’s average salary or about $ 500.
The strike has also turned into a political issue. The government accused the opposition and President Ilir Meta of instigating a strike, while the latter dismissed the accusation, saying Rama was exploiting anything ahead of the April 25 elections.
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