Turkish Airlines Faces Strike in Weeks After Union Decision

Turkish Airlines staff will strike by May 23 if demands regarding pay and working hours aren’t met, according to the Hava-Is union, which says 212 jet orders in four weeks show the carrier has the means to improve conditions.

The labor group is pursuing a 12 percent pay increase this year after the company offered a 3 percent raise in the first half and another 3 percent in the second, its leader Atilla Aycin said in an interview. The union also wants 305 former staff to be reinstated, and guarantees that hours will be cut.

Workers at Turkish Airlines are seeking improved terms as the carrier expands its fleet and piles on passengers as part of a plan to build Istanbul into a hub for intercontinental transfer flights. Staff fly at least 115 hours a month, compared with an international standard of 80 hours, according to Aycin.

“The number of planes and passengers tripled in the past decade while the size of the workforce has remained almost the same, forcing staff to work excessive hours,” Aycin said by telephone. The strike will begin between now and May 23 “unless an agreement with the government is reached,” he added.

Talks Offer

Turkish Airlines, in which the state has a 49 percent stake, placed an order for 70 Boeing Co. (BA) 737 short-haul planes plus 25 options with a list price of $9.4 billion yesterday, after agreeing to buy 117 A320 jets from Airbus SAS (EAD) March 15.

The latest orders will help the company double the size of its fleet to almost 400 aircraft by 2020.

Turkish Airlines has offered to continue collective bargaining negotiations, it said today in a stock exchange filing, adding that according to law the union must give it six days’ notice of the start of any strike.

The government also has the right to block a strike for 60 days for reasons of national security, which don’t apply in this case, said Aycin, adding that the 12 percent pay claim factors in inflation. The airline employs 13,800 people, he said.

“The possibility of the union starting a strike is very low,” Ayse Colak, an analyst at Tera Brokers in Istanbul, said in an investor note. “We think the negotiations will continue and government intervention is very highly likely at the end.”

Turkish Airlines, as Turk Hava Yollari AO (THYAO) is known, aims to carry 46 million passengers in 2013, seven million more than a year earlier, including 27.3 million international travelers.

Shares of the carrier fell as much as 1.7 percent to 7.06 liras in Istanbul, the lowest since Feb. 27. They were traded at 7.12 liras as of 3:38 p.m., giving a market value of 8.47 billion liras ($4.74 billion).

To contact the reporter on this story: Ercan Ersoy in Istanbul at eersoy@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benjamin Harvey at bharvey11@bloomberg.net

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