The Costa Rica air traffic controllers’ strike at Juan Santamaría International Airport began today.
The protest was initiated the previous Friday by the Air Traffic Controllers Union (SINTECNA), which announced the strike due to “essential deficiencies” in their working conditions. According to the union, these conditions prevent them from performing their duties properly.
SINTECNA has called for the strike based on three primary concerns: a shortage of staffing, as they claim a need for 54 additional roles; the issue of prophylactic leave, for which they are requesting an extra 15 days annually due to job stress and the potential for errors arising from fatigue; and the lack of salary increases. While some departments within the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) received pay adjustments in 2022, the air traffic controllers were not among them.
Airport Operating Normally
After the strike announcement, the Minister of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT), Luis Amador Jiménez, assured that, under his leadership, flight operations would remain unaffected.
“Citizens can rest assured that there will be no disruption in the operation of flights at Juan Santamaría airport next week,” he declared.
Fernando Naranjo, the general director of Civil Aviation, also confirmed that the airport is currently operating smoothly.
“Today, operations at Juan Santamaría airport are proceeding without significant issues, in a safe, orderly, and timely fashion,” Naranjo said.
Police Officers Were Present at the Control Tower
The strike announcement was made last Friday. However, according to the union, around 3:00 p.m. that same day, two officers from the Air Surveillance Service (SVA) of the Ministry of Public Security ascended to the tower. The union believes they were there to “monitor” the controllers.
On that day, this police presence was unusual in restricted areas, and the union claims it added stress to the controllers, who require utmost focus in their role.
This police involvement prompted varied reactions from both national and international entities, expressing deep concerns about the response of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC), the MOPT, and Security authorities to the strike announcement.
The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA) described the decision by the DGAC to deploy police to oversee the specialists at Juan Santamaría International Airport as “unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, the Costa Rican Aeronautics Association (ACAR) denounced the “irrational and unacceptable use of force by the police as intimidation.”
“ACAR urges the relevant authorities to immediately and effectively address this issue by withdrawing police personnel from the control tower at Juan Santamaría airport. We advocate for an open and constructive dialogue between all parties involved, aiming to find resolutions that respect the rights and concerns of air traffic controllers while ensuring the safety and efficient management of our airspace,” the organization stated.