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Turkish Airlines Barred From Replacing Striking Employees

Turkish Airlines was barred by an Istanbul labor court from hiring workers to replace a portion of its employees who have been been on strike for almost two months, a trade union said.

The airline has added about 700 workers and made arrangements with its SunExpress joint venture and Indian partner to make up for about 1,600 cabin crew who have held work stoppages since May 15, a hiring spree that the Hava-Is trade union said undermines the protesters’ efforts.

“The court decision confirmed our argument that the employer is a strikebreaker,” union Chairman Atilla Aycin said. “We have communicated the court’s decision with top management and are now expecting the company to terminate job contracts of those hired people.”

Management of Turkish Airlines, formally known as Turk Hava Yollari AS, has been at odds with employees over pay, with workers demanding a 12 percent increase, exceeding a company offer of a 3 percent raise in the first half and another 3 percent in the second. The union also wants 305 former staff to be reinstated, and guarantees that flight hours be cut for cabin crew.

The court’s decision hasn’t yet arrived at Turkish Airlines, said Ali Genc, spokesman for the Istanbul-based carrier. Contracts to get service and staff from SunExpress and Jet Airways India Ltd. predated the strike and are based on longterm service supply deals, he said. Turkish Airlines has the right to appeal.

Workers are seeking improved terms as the carrier expands its fleet and attracts more passengers to build Istanbul into a hub for intercontinental transfer flights. Cabin crew fly at least 115 hours a month, compared with an international standard of 80 hours, according to Aycin. Turkish Airlines aims to carry 46 million passengers in 2013, seven million more than a year earlier, including 27.3 million international travelers.

Turkish Airlines and the union had engaged in talks after the strike began, though the company never agreed on any of the union’s terms, Aycin said.

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