Turkish Air Union May Strike Over Pay, Hours

May 21, 2010

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Workers at Turkish Airlines, Europe's fourth-largest airline, may strike if talks with management on wages and working hours fail, the head of the aviation workers union said on Thursday.

The two sides have been negotiating since January but have yet to reach agreement, said Mustafa Yagci, chairman of Hava Is which represents 11,000 workers, more than half of whom are pilots and flight attendants.

Turkish Airlines was not available to comment.

The union will on Friday present the airlines with an official notice of its intention to strike, Yagci said.

That notification will initiate a 60-day period of talks. Employees must give six days notice before striking, according to Turkish law.

Turkish Airlines' expansion into new markets has meant longer working days for pilots and flight attendants, and Hava Is wants to shorten hours to comply with European and US flight-safety standards, Yagci said.

"The biggest problem is that the airlines' rapid growth has increased the burden on its employees. This is as much of a problem for flight safety as it is for our members," he said.

AIRLINE EXPANSION

The Istanbul-based flag carrier has more than doubled the number of destinations it serves since 2005 to 149 international and domestic airports. It wants to become Europe's third-biggest airline by passengers this year after passenger numbers grew almost 50 percent since 2006. Revenue has nearly doubled.

The summer months from June to September are Turkish Airlines' busiest as millions of tourists travel to Turkey.

The government can postpone any strike at strategic companies, including Turkish Airlines. The state retains a 49 percent stake in the carrier.

(Reuters)