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March 30, 2023

Court rules air traffic controllers’ strike legal

The Bucharest Tribunal ruled on Tuesday that the strike staged by the air traffic controllers is legal, dismissing as ungrounded the complaint filed by the Romanian Air Traffic Service Corporation ROMATSA.

The Bucharest Court’s ruling is not final and is open to appeal in the next ten days.

The 30 trade unionists in the courtroom broke into applause when the ruling was handed down.

Romatsa’s lawyer – who challenged in court the strike triggered by the Trade Union of Air Traffic Services in Romania – claimed in court that the signatures in favour of the strike, which were collected by the company’s trade union, are no longer valid since they were collected last November. Meanwhile, the trade union members’ lawyer pointed out that the institution’s 2017 budget has not been approved, and there is a shortage of air traffic controllers while the administrative staff is very numerous.

At the start of the court hearings, Romatsa’s lawyer asked for the strike to stop and for work to resume, arguing that the trade union members’ signatures in favour of the protest action were collected in November 2016, before the start of negotiations between the trade union and the employer. “There is no valid mandate for the trade union’s strike. Steps forward have already been taken, a series of procedures have been started,” the company’s lawyer claimed.

In his turn, the lawyer of Romatsa’s trade union pointed out that trade union members went through all stages stipulated by law.

“There are official statements of conciliation submitted to the dossier. Nothing was solved after this stage. The trade union does not consider a series of its 50 claims solved. The employees’ claims are professional and text-related. At this moment, there is no budget drafted and approved by Romatsa’s Board. The claims have nothing to do with salaries, but they have something to do with this budget. There aren’t sufficient traffic controllers. There are air traffic towers in the country working with three people. To resort to hiring, a budget is required; a budget that doesn’t exist. People are working extra time and cannot be released because there’s no one to start the shift. There are no air traffic controllers but there is a very high number of administrative personnel,” the trade union members’ lawyer claimed, adding that the strike is legal in his view and asking the court to reject Romatsa’s challenge.

The adviser of the Transport Ministry, institution to which Romatsa is subordinated, pointed out that the air traffic controllers’ performance plan must be changed by the European Commission. The trade union members’ reply was that air traffic over Romania has risen 18 percent after Ukraine’s airspace was closed and the ministry has done nothing in the last two years to regulate the air traffic controllers’ performance plan.

The air traffic controllers’ strike – which started at 9 a.m. – was suspended at 1 p.m., however negotiations are continuing, according to Alecu Florin Diaconu, spokesperson of the Trade Union of Air Traffic Services in Romania (ATSR).

“The labour conflict isn’t over, it remains open, and the general strike can resume, on condition it is announced at least two days in advance. It’s important what the court rules today too,” Diaconu stated for News.ro.

During the strike, six flights operated by low-cost airline Ryanair were cancelled on Tuesday, 18 flights set to land on the Henri Coanda Airport registered delays of up to three hours, while another 16 flights set to take off registered delays of almost two and a half hours, according to the data posted on the website of the Bucharest Airports National Company (CNAB), which operates the airport in Otopeni.

The biggest delay for an inbound flight was registered by a Blue Air flight from Rome to Otopeni, which should have landed at 12.10 p.m. but whose landing was scheduled for 3 p.m. The biggest delay for an outbound flight was registered by a Wizz Air flight to Lisbon, which should have arrived at its destination at 2.40 p.m. local time but its estimated arrival time was changed to 4.50 p.m. instead.

The labour strike became a certainty on Monday, after the latest negotiations with the Transport Ministry failed. Passengers were unable to find out in due time information about the flights cancelled or delayed.

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