Tirana International Airport

Flights resume at Tirana Airport after strike

Albania’s infrastructure minister said that “essential” flights have resumed at Tirana airport, following a strike by air traffic controllers.

Belinda Balluku said humanitarian, emergency, health, diplomatic, state and military flights have resumed. Meanwhile commercial ones at Tirana airport will start Friday morning, AP reports.

It was unclear whether strikers have resumed work. The infrastructure ministry is not commenting on local media reports that other air traffic controllers came from Turkey.

About two dozen Albanian air traffic controllers were questioned by police on suspicion of abuse of post following their strike over a pay dispute.

Authorities on Wednesday sent troops and police to clear striking controllers out of the flight control tower and their offices.

The Tirana prosecutor’s office says if they are charged and convicted of abuse of post they could face up to 7 years in prison.

The Tirana airport suspended 19 flights on Wednesday. The civilian air traffic controllers avoid terming their action a strike. This is because they are cannot engage in a strike under Albanian law. Instead they are saying they would be unable to “work under stress” for 24 hours starting Wednesday morning.

The first plane landed at Tirana airport at about lunch time bringing a batch of virus vaccines. They didn’t arrive the night before.

“Illegal strike”

Prime Minister Edi Rama said the strike was illegal.

“There is no chance that destructive forces, absolutely blind forces, forces of the past who want by all means to take the country hostage, (will) stop us,” he said at a meeting with supporters in southern Albania.

The controllers’ union says salaries are down by 62% over the past year due to COVID-19. Over the same period, Albania’s air traffic has fallen by 57%, according Balluku.

The minister said air traffic controllers get salaries of $2,490 a month — five times the country’s average salary of about $500.

The strike also turned into a political issue. The government accused the opposition and President Ilir Meta of inciting the strike, while the latter rejected the accusation, saying that Rama is exploiting anything in advance of the April 25 elections.

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