Albania: Flight control strike triggers political backlash

TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s prime minister threatened legal action against air traffic controllers at the country’s one international airport, who went on strike Wednesday to press for higher pay.

Edi Rama accused opposition parties of backing the 24-hour walkout “to stop vaccine deliveries” to the country. He said strike organizers would be sued under legislation that strictly prohibits employees from suspending activity at the flight control tower.

More than a dozen flights were canceled at Tirana International Airport Wednesday.

The strikers’ union says their pay has been cut by 62% over the past year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the same period, Albania’s air traffic has fallen by 57%, according to Infrastructure Minister Belinda Balluku.

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

Balluku also accused the strikers of having a political agenda, and threatened legal action.

“No one can hold the country hostage,” she said.

Albania is in an electoral campaign ahead of April 25 parliamentary polls.