Air traffic controllers seeking EUR 17,000 a month

A striking air traffic controllers' union is demanding a pay rise to an average of PLN 80,000 (EUR 17,210) a month from the current PLN 33,000 (EUR 7,100), the Polish government's spokesperson has said.

Piotr Mueller also said the government had accepted 24 of the union's demands concerning safety, and that the demands had been agreed upon on April 13.

Negotiations have been continuing since early April between Poland's Air Navigation Services Agency (PAZP) and the striking ZZKRL traffic controllers' union. A further round of talks was scheduled to start at 14:00 on Monday.

Mueller told the wp.pl website that the new round of talks would concern pay.

"At the moment, the average pay of a controller working in Warsaw stands at PLN 33,000 a month," Mueller said, adding that that was the average salary and that some earned PLN 50, 60 or 70,000 a month.

The government spokesperson went on to explain that the funds for air traffic controllers' pay come from airport fees, and that the number of flights had reduced by about a third due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mueller said flights had not returned to pre-pandemic levels.

He added that the union "now proposes that the average remuneration of a controller in Warsaw comes to about PLN 80,000 a month."

"I understand that this is a responsible job, but now those people are earning an average of PLN 33,000," Mueller continued. "The discussion is about returning to the pay of 2019, when it stood at between PLN 50,000 (EUR 10,760) and PLN 60,000 (EUR 12,910) on average for a Warsaw controller," he said. "But now the demand... in practice would mean that the average monthly remuneration of a controller in Warsaw would come to about PLN 80,000. In connection with this we ask ourselves: is it really proportionate? I don't know the answer to that question, that's why there is a team of negotiators which will deal with it."

The matter was also scheduled for discussion by the parliamentary sub-committee on air transport, which convened at 10:00 on Monday.

Asked if he would join the talks with the strikers if an agreement was not reached, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he did not foresee such an eventuality, but added that he was being informed about the negotiations on a continuous basis by the infrastructure minister.

Morawiecki told the Polsat News TV channel that the government side had alternative solutions in store in case an agreement was reached with the strikers, but stressed that they would be activated only as a last resort.

"We have various contingency plans and will present if and when necessary," he said.

Morawiecki also called the strikers' demands "excessive" and said the ongoing talks should steer towards a compromise.

He added that the government side refused to be placed under pressure by the protesters.

"We cannot allow ourselves to be coerced or blackmailed," Morawiecki said.