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Flight controllers’ strike shuts air traffic in Albania

All flights arriving and departing Tirana airport were cancelled on Wednesday, due to a strike by air traffic controllers demanding a pay rise in the industry plagued by coronavirus.The 24-hour walkout, which will last until Tuesday morning, initially led to the cancellation of more than dozen flights at Rinas Airport in 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.Albanian infrastructure minister Belinda Balluku, told reporters in the evening that the army would take “control of the (airport) building”.”No one can hold the country hostage,” Balluku said.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.The prime minister added that striking workers will be prosecuted, as Albanian law prohibits suspending air traffic control services.Balluku accused the strikers of “having a political agenda”, and threatened them with legal action “if they do not return to work”.She added that flight control employees earn some $2,500 euros ($2.095 euros) per month, “five times over” the average salary in the country.bme/mbs/pvhFACEBOOK

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