Turkish Airlines fires 150 personnel over slowdown strike

A flight cancellation seen at a board in İstanbul's Atatürk Airport. (Photo: AA)

May 29, 2012, Tuesday/ 12:37:00

Turkish Airlines (THY) has fired 150 of its personnel over a partial slowdown that forced the national flag carrier to cancel at least 128 domestic and international flights as of Tuesday 6 p.m., sending shock waves through the thousands of stranded passengers, particularly at İstanbul Atatürk Airport.

The strike began as early as 3 a.m. following a call from the Turkish Civil Aviation (Hava-İş) union. The union said it asked its members to protest a legislative attempt to remove aviation workers' rights to strike by slowing down the operations at their workplace. Not all of the THY ground workers participated in the strike, and those who did also protested the others who did not heed Hava-İş's call.

A parliamentary commission recently voted in favor of a draft law to cancel aviation workers' right to strike with the government's support despite opposition from other parties represented in Parliament.

Hava-İş labeled it a move “against universal, constitutional, and the most fundamental, workers’ right.” The draft is set to be voted on soon in Parliament’s General Assembly. Besides the cancelations, THY, the largest airline in Turkey, also experienced delays on many of its other flights, with some passengers waiting up to almost half a day to get on their planes. “The Hava-İş union called for an illegal strike and some of [our] workers heeded this call. Because of this, we are experiencing some troubles with our flight operations but we are resorting to cancelations in a way that affects our passengers the least,” THY said in a statement. Passengers whose flights had been canceled were put up in a nearby hotel by THY.

Speaking at an İstanbul conference on Tuesday, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan said the slowdown was not in line with the law. “Your democratic rights can only go as far as the border of others’ democratic rights,” he said. Also commenting on the strike was Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communication Minister Binali Yıldırım in Ankara. “Striking is a way for workers to seek their rights but it must be the last resort [in all such disputes],” he said, adding that “if this drags on and discomforts people too much, we will not hesitate to take certain necessary steps.” He did not say what steps the government would take if the situation escalates.

Turkey’s Sky Airlines said in a statement on Tuesday that it rented three of its airplanes with their cabin crew to the THY to partially address the problem the national airlines faces.