BEIRUT: Air traffic controllers apologized to travelers Tuesday after disrupting flights in Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport due to strike action by staff members.
“We apologize to travelers who were affected by our strike,” the secretary of the Air Traffic Controllers Committee, Rani Hamade, said during a news conference from the airport.
Hamade said the air traffic controllers were holding on to the Union Coordination Committee’s demand for a salary increase. He called on lawmakers to endorse the controversial salary scale as soon as possible “to avoid further escalatory measures.”
Inbound and outbound flights from Rafik Hariri International Airport were suspended from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. by staff members in support of the demands of the public sector employees, delaying over a dozen arriving and departing flights. A total of 18 flights were affected as a result.
Despite the air controllers’ action and a similar strike and protest by the UCC, Parliament failed again to approve the wage scale over lack of quorum.
Head of Lebanese Pilots Association Fadi Khalil, who joined the staff members’ protest, called on the state to endorse the rights of air traffic controllers, who are state employees, “so that they do not have to work two jobs to secure the livelihood of their families.”
“The air traffic controllers in Beirut’s airport are some of the best and most productive employees in the world. ... The state should give them their rights to preserve their productivity level,” he said.
The Union Coordination Committee, representing public sector employees and teachers, has maintained protests and strikes for two years, crippling work at government offices and public schools.
The government has been stalling the referral of the new salary scale that was approved last year, arguing that it needs more time to secure financing for the pay raise.