ONGOING LABOUR ACTION BY ETHIOPIA’S AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ESCALATES INTO INTER COUNTRY SPAT
(Posted 03rd September 2018)
The strike action by Ethiopian air traffic controllers, an almost unprecedented labour action in a country which in the past tightly controlled such key sectors like aviation from labour unrest – unlike in Kenya where often militant pilot and other aviation related unions have been a festering sore in the side of airlines and in particular of Kenya Airways – has now escalated into a spat with neighbours.
Kenya’s air traffic controllers a few days ago issued a statement warning of the safety in the Ethiopian skies following the hasty recruitment into service by Ethiopian authorities of allegedly retired air traffic controllers and others from allegedly other jurisdictions.
Kenya’s KATCA – short for Kenya Air Traffic Controllers Association – had suggested that Ethiopian Authorities had drafted in ‘controllers’ lacking current validation and that as a result aircraft from Ethiopia entering Kenyan airspace have come in on wrong flight levels, prompting instant action to rectify such. They also suggested that the situation led to a significant increase in direct communications between Nairobi and Addis Ababa air traffic control to obtain proper readings.
The action by KATCA clearly angered Ethiopian authorities which issued a letter sent to international media including ATCNews where they rejected what they called false and baseless allegations. The use of the letter’s language and accusations of lack of ethics and professionalism by KATCA in itself however is giving away how the statement of the Kenyan air traffic controllers association had hit raw nerves of Ethiopian authorities clearly taken by surprise when their own controllers downed their tools, taking advantage of the new government having opened political spaces.
The statement also failed to mention KATCA’s call on both parties in Ethiopia to rapidly resolve the situation by negotiations to allow regular air traffic control services to resume.
In the interest of fair reporting is the KATCA statement equally published in full below so that readers can form their own opinion – after more than three quarters of comments received by ATCNews’ readers on the subject broadly shared the concerns voiced by the Kenyan controllers.