Turkish Air Faces Strike As Deadline Approaches

May 14, 2013

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Turkish Airlines staff are highly likely to go on strike from Wednesday, a union official said, raising the prospect of flight delays and cancellations in a dispute over pay and the reinstatement of sacked workers.

Aviation union Hava-Is, which says it represents 14,000 of the airline's 15,800 workers, is demanding that the company rehires 305 employees dismissed after industrial action that grounded hundreds of flights in May last year.

The prospect of a strike this week comes as Turkish Airlines denied media reports of strife within management over the unrest and a move to ban female flight attendants wearing red lipstick and nail polish, which it withdrew this month.

Hava-Is had set a May 15 deadline to resolve the dispute with one the airline, and the union's general secretary, Mustafa Yagci, said on Tuesday that "there looks to be a high probability of a strike".

Yagci said that the union's chairman had talks with Turkish Airlines Chairman Hamdi Topcu but without any sign of a deal.

"Management stands where it stood five months ago," he added.

The union said in a previous statement that a strike would begin at 3 am local time on May 15. It was not clear how many employees would take part in strike action, but Yagci suggested on Tuesday that there could be significant disruption.

"Turkish Airlines has about 800 daily flights from Istanbul alone. When you consider this, their loss will be great," he said.

The workers the union wants reinstated were dismissed after the airline had to cancel 223 flights when staff reported ill in protest at a draft law making it illegal for them to strike. Parliament passed the bill last year but the union says it still has the right to take industrial action.

Turkish Airlines Chairman Topcu told NTV television on Monday that collective bargaining talks with Hava-Is were blocked because of the precondition for the 305 dismissed workers. He said that the union should wait for a court ruling on their fate.

The company, which is 49 percent state-owned, also denied that management itself is in dispute over the airline's recent troubles.

"The characterisation of the issue by some press outlets as a management crisis does not reflect the truth. There is no disagreement in the Turkish Airlines management," it said in a statement to the Istanbul stock exchange on Monday.

It added that chief executive Temel Kotil had requested leave because his father was unwell but had delayed the leave until next week because of the ongoing talks with the union.