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Army deployed to Tirana airport as flight control strike shuts air travel

Albania deployed troops to Tirana airport Wednesday, after all flights were cancelled because of a strike by air traffic controllers protesting wage cuts in the coronavirus-hit industry.The 24-hour walkout, which is scheduled to last until Thursday morning, initially led to the cancellation of more than dozen flights at Rinas Airport near Tirana, according to the airfield authorities.The strikers’ union said in a statement that their wages have been cut by 62 percent during the last year, as the coronavirus pandemic dealt a huge blow to the air travel sector.”The airport of Rinas has been put under the control of the army,” said the Minister of Infrastructure, Belinda Balluku, in a televised interview. “No one can hold the country hostage,” Balluku said earlier in the evening.Albania is currently in the midst of a heated parliamentary elections campaign, with the vote scheduled for April 25.Prime Minister Edi Rama pointed the finger at the country’s opposition parties, accusing them of aiming to “block the airport of Rinas and prevent the delivery of vaccines that should arrive in Albania.”This serious act of sabotage… will not be tolerated,” Rama said on Facebook.Striking workers would be prosecuted, he added, as Albanian law prohibits suspending air traffic control services.Balluku accused the strikers of “having a political agenda”, threatening them with legal action if they did not return to work.Flight control employees earn around $2,500 euros ($2.095 euros) per month, she said, “five times over” the average salary in Albania.bme/mbs/jjFACEBOOK

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