Last week Air Traffic Controllers in Albania declared a temporary inability to work due to the stress caused by attacks from their employer on their terms and conditions. These attacks included unilateral salary cuts and a refusal to negotiate a collective agreement and caused numerous flights to and from Tirana to be cancelled. This decision by the controllers is permitted under the International Convention on Civil Aviation which prohibits air traffic controllers from exercising their licences when they are aware of any decrease in their mental or physical fitness.
In response to this the authorities in Albania used force to clear controllers from air traffic facilities, with both the police and the army being involved. Alongside this there are reports of several controllers being arrested or taken in to police custody and some being publicly named. The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, announced that the Government were considering legal action against anyone protesting and threatening those that refused to return to work with dismissal. Unqualified and unauthorised personnel from another country have been used to replace absent controllers which has caused unnecessary risk to the Albanian air traffic system leading to IFALPA advising all pilots to exercise extreme caution when operating in Albanian airspace.
The ATCOs’ Branch stands in solidarity with our colleagues in Albania and condemns the actions of the Albanian authorities. The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental right of workers and should be respected, and as such we call upon the Albanian Government to engage with the controllers involved, and immediately release any controllers from custody.