The north’s ‘government’ on Monday night ordered a 60-day suspension of strike activity at Ercan (Tymbou) airport after air traffic control staff had walked out earlier in the evening.

Air traffic control staff had announced a 13-hour overnight strike to show their dissatisfaction with the state of the airport but have now been ordered back to work by the ‘government.

When the strike was announced, the north’s air traffic control staff union (HTKS)’s chairman Cem Kapisiz said, “despite our repeated warnings, aviation, and therefore aviation safety in our country is continuing to be undermined by the state.”

“Since the day it was privatised [in 2013], Ercan airport has become a state institution operated to raise money for [holding company] T&T, rather than an institution which should provide air transportation services to passengers,” he said.

He added, “Ercan airport is not property we have inherited from politicians, it belongs to the people!

“Even if you are a minister, an MP, or in the government, you cannot give away the people’s property to private capital. You cannot risk people’s lives and property just to make money for someone,” he said.

He added that the new airport terminal, opened in July last year, had been opened “just for [the ‘government’s’] political ambitions,” saying that completing and operating it “placed burdens” on T&T, but that the ‘government’ had stepped in to save T&T from bearing those burdens.

“You, the UBP-DP-YDP coalition, considered it your duty to cover the company’s financial burdens, but you forgot your main duty … You gave away millions of dollars to the company with the contracts you signed,” he said.

He added that the ‘government’ had removed the north’s authorities’ ability to evaluate the contracts, instead placing that responsibility into the hands of an arbitral tribunal appointed by the Turkish government.

“While doing this, you left your main duty hanging – what needs to be done for aviation services and safety,” he said.

He said air traffic control staff have been “put in danger” twice in the last five months due to “technical inadequacies” of the airport, but that the ‘government’ “has not learnt a single lesson from this.”

“As if all this were not enough, you turn a blind eye to subcontracted companies saving money on employees by employing workers like slaves,” he added.

“What are you waiting for? For a dangerous situation this time to result in an accident? For the transformation of this airport into a business which runs like a slave market? Are you a government of the people or a government of capital interests?”

He added, “we have absolutely no peace with the UBP-DP-YDP government. The conditions you have created for aviation are beyond the conscience of us the employees.

“We do not even care whether T&T is financially sufficient to operate at this point. Safety in aviation is something which cannot be compromised. No one has the right to risk aviation safety,” he said.

Speaking to newspaper Kibris after the strike was announced, the north’s ‘transport minister’ Erhan Arikli described it as “meaningless and unnecessary.”