Iberia staffers agree to pay cut to end dispute

Spanish flag-carrier Iberia on Friday settled months of bitter dispute over layoffs and cutbacks by striking a final deal with unions to cut ground staff's salaries, managers said.

Iberia staffers agree to pay cut to end dispute
Iberia' ground staff agreed on a seven-percent pay cut and a salary freeze until 2015. Photo: Pedro Armestre/AFP

Management and labour unions representing a majority of ground staff agreed on a seven-percent pay cut and a salary freeze until 2015, Iberia management said in a statement.

The agreement, yet to be formally approved by the labour groups, followed thousands of job cuts last year and deals with cabin crew and pilots who accepted a 14-percent pay cut.

Iberia's chief executive Luis Gallego called Friday's agreement "a milestone in the history of the company".

"This allows us to lay the foundation for Iberia to move forward on the path of profitable and sustainable growth," he told a news conference.

Francisco Rodriguez, a UGT airline workers' representative, said: "This agreement guarantees the jobs of more than 20,000 workers."

Iberia workers staged months of strikes and protests last year against the cuts planned by International Airlines Group, the holding company for Iberia and British Airways, which merged in 2011.

They had accused IAG of trying to dismantle the pride of Spanish civil aviation for the benefit of BA.

With Friday's agreement, "the aim is for Iberia to be once again this country's leading airline as it always has been," Rodriguez said.

Executives said the airline was forced to cut its fleet and services last year after logging €850 million ($1.1 billion) in losses between 2008 and September 2012.

After the protests, management and unions struck a deal a year ago to cut 3,100 jobs with improved severance payments and lighter salary cuts.

Iberia then cut its operating losses overall in 2013 to €166 million , after a loss of €351 million a year earlier.

Third-quarter operating profit at British Airways meanwhile surged to €477 million, from €268 million .

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WATCH: British Airways flight emergency lands in Spain after cabin fills with smoke

Passengers describe the terrifying, panic-filled moments on board a British Airways flight from London to Valencia as the cabin filled with smoke just prior to landing.

WATCH: British Airways flight emergency lands in Spain after cabin fills with smoke
Photo: AFP

The BA422 flight landed at Manises airport shortly before 7pm and passengers safely exited the airport using the emergency inflatable slides.

But not before they were “terrified” by the experience.

Spanish sports journalist Dani Moroño Bori was on board the stricken flight and tweeted out a full account.

“PANIC!!! FEAR – have never been through anything like that before,” he tweeted “What a miracle. The plane we were on from London to Valencia caught fire. We’ve just landed.”

In a subsequent tweet, he wrote: “We’re trying to get out but nothing’s working!!! We’re trapped but they’re going to open the door!!! We’ve landed in Manises aiport [in Valencia].”

Looking visibly relieved, he posted again from the runway after exiting the aircraft by the emergency slide. “Wow!!!! that was crazy!!!! We just jumped down the slide, like in the movies with the flight attendant ordering us to Jump Jump.”

Meroño added: “Everyone’s alright but there were people who had a really rough time. It was a big shock when smoke started to appear when we were flying. Luckily we were close and everything turned out OK. We took a deep breath when we landed.”

The journalist complained that a lack of information from staff had added to the distress of passengers.

“Waiting for someone to come and talk to us about this. No protocol whatsoever. The British Airways flight crew haven’t told us anything. It was us passengers who tried to calm the older people or those that don’t speak any English.”

Others also complained about the lack of information as to what happened.

Valencia health authorities said 19 people had been treated at the scene with three transferred to hospital for monitoring after showing signs of smoke inhalation. Others were mostly treated for anxiety.

In a statement, British Airways said: “We can confirm that British Airways flight BA422 from Heathrow to Valencia has been involved in an incident today.

“The aircraft, an A321, has landed and all customers and crew have disembarked. British Airways teams are assisting customers who are in the airport terminal.”