Metro workers are striking in Barcelona leaving the city’s metro system working at 30 to 50 percent capacity – and it could not be worse timing.
The strike coincides with the opening day of the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC), the biggest mobile industry convention in the world, which for the second year running, welcomes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark Zuckerberg speaking on the eve of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photo: AFP
Despite last minute attempts led by Barcelona mayor Ada Colau to avoid the strike, the workers voted unanimously to go ahead with the industrial action on Monday and Wednesday over pay issues.
The metro will be running at 50 percent capacity during rush hour and 30 percent during the rest of the day.
Around 20 metro entrances were closed on Monday morning to avoid the build-up of crowds.
Barcelona’s public transport body is advising commuters not to use the metro on Monday and instead opt for an alternative means of transport.
— E.P. (@epak23) February 22, 2016
Bus stops around the city had longer than usual queues, while many buses on the Gran Via – location of the Mobile World Congress – were driving straight past bus stops without stopping for passengers because they were already full.
— Shara Tibken (@sharatibken) February 22, 2016
Traffic was at a standstill on Monday morning as many people opted to travel by car, causing huge tailbacks on roads around the city.
To make matters worse, bus workers are set to strike on Tuesday and Thursday in three sets of two hours: between 2am and 4am, 9am and 11am and 7.30pm and 9.30pm.
Catalan newspaper El Periódico is reporting that people are struggling to find empty taxis in the centre; many people attending the MWC have opted to go by taxi.
Metro workers, during a meeting held on Thursday, “unanimously” rejected the proposal put forward by Barcelona Metropolitan Transport (TMB) for a new collective bargaining agreement, instead opting to go ahead with the two-day strike.
TMB said that between 30,000 and 40,000 people used the Barcelona metro during last year’s Mobile World Congress and predicted that that number would rise in 2016.
The public transport company criticized the workers for making the decision “in little more than half an hour” and “without enough time to evaluate the offer” according to Spanish daily El País.
The rejected offer included changing the contracts of 250 metro workers from temporary to permanent by 2020, with workers arguing that the number of workers on temporary contacts will rise to around 600.