Africa air traffic control strike grounds flights across region

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DAKAR, Sept 23 (Reuters) – An air traffic control strike grounded flights to and from West and Central Africa on Friday, causing chaos for passengers traveling to Europe, the United States and within the continent.

Staff at the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA), which regulates air traffic control in 18 countries, stopped work Friday amid a dispute over working conditions and pay, defying court rulings and government bans barring them from doing so.

Flights to and from Europe and the United States were suspended on Friday evening, a busy air traffic, Reuters reporters said at Blaise Diagne International Airport in Senegal and the United States.

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Flights within Africa have also been affected, airlines and passengers said.

ASECNA urged customers to check airline websites for updates.

“Despite the ban on strikes by all courts … the Union of Air Traffic Controllers Unions (USYCAA) has launched a wildcat strike,” ASECNA said Friday.

“We have already exhausted both administrative and institutional means to deal with this crisis, but we have before us unionists who are stubbornly doing what they want,” Ceubah Guelpina, ASECNA’s human resources director, told a news conference.

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The USYCAA union said in a statement its members would halt providing services to all but “sensitive” flights until their demands are met.

Paul Francois Gomis, a leader of Senegalese air traffic controllers who were on strike, said some union members in Cameroon, Congo and Comoros were arrested for taking part in the strike.

Air Senegal had suspended several flights as a result of the action, Reuters reporters said. The airline could not immediately be reached for comment.

Flights to the United States, Portugal and Turkey have been affected, travelers said.

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On Thursday, a court in Senegal suspended the call for strikes by air traffic controllers in Senegal and Ivory Coast, ASECNA said.

ASECNA said it has developed a contingency plan that will allow airlines to take alternate routes if certain airports are hit by temporary staff shortages should the strike drag on.

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reporting from Bate Felix, Diadie Ba and Ngouda Dione; letter from Cooper Inveen; Edited by Alexander Smith, Susan Fenton and David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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