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Spain's airport staff set to strike over Christmas: What you need to know

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 12 Dec, 2022 Updated Mon 12 Dec 2022 13:45 CEST
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Passengers look as AENA workers protest against job cuts at Barcelona's El Prat airport in 2012. A decade on, strike action has been called across Spain's airports over a missing productivity bonus. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Spain’s leading trade union has called on 10,000 workers at Spanish airports and control centres to strike over Christmas. Here’s what we know so far, from the potential strike dates to why industrial action has been announced. 


THURSDAY DECEMBER 15TH UPDATE: The Spanish airport worker strike has been called off after the trade union representing employees reached a deal with Aena's management and Spain's Ministry of Transport over the issue of non-payment of the productivity bonus. Therefore, the information in the article below is no longer valid.

Workers belonging to Spain’s airport operator Aena have been called to join a strike by Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), the leading Spanish trade union representing them.

The strikes are currently expected to take place over Christmas and throughout first quarter of 2023, including the Easter holidays, according to the union. 


Why have strikes at Spanish airports been called?

As is often the case, the primary reason for planned strike action is a dispute over pay.

On this occasion, it’s a productivity bonus which Aena staff stopped getting in 2020, with officials blaming low earnings during the Covid-19 pandemic. But workers haven’t received la paga por productividad ever since, despite travel and tourism numbers returning to normal in Spain.

This productivity payment represents around 2 percent of Aena workers' annual wages.

“Air traffic has recovered to 2019 levels (a record year for Spain) and some airports have exceeded them,” Francisco José Casado Moreno, CCOO general secretary for Aena, stated on Friday.

“The distribution of dividends to private shareholders is also authorised and the workers of the Aena group demand therefore what corresponds to us from the recovery.”

This is part of ongoing discussions between Aena’s unionists and the Spanish government, with CCOO set to officially log the strike in the coming days if a deal is not reached. 

"Despite promising words from the companies involved and the Ministry of Transport, the delay in reaching an agreement is causing a lot of uneasiness among the workers and the unions present at the negotiating table," Casado added.


What are the strike dates and what is likely to happen?

If planned industrial action isn’t called off, the strike days will be December 22nd, 23rd, 30th and 31st, as well as January 6th and 8th.

"And we will continue (striking) if the conflict is not resolved, during the first quarter of 2023, including Easter," Casado stressed.

In CCOO's own words, the strike "could plunge Spanish airports into chaos in the middle of the Christmas holidays".

Fortunately, the planned stoppages do not include air traffic controllers, who are represented by the USCA union. 

Strike action in Spain, such as that currently involving cabin crew for low-cost Spanish airline Vueling, has to guarantee minimum services if industrial action is considered to cause a major public disturbance. That’s according to Spanish law.

Although it is yet to be determined how many Aena workers will take part in the strike, the minimum services obligation should ensure that Spanish airports don’t grind to a halt over the Christmas holidays, although previous industrial action by airport staff in Spain has resulted in massive flight delays and cancellations.

An air traffic controller strike in 2010 even led the Spanish government to declare a state of alert and conscripted the controllers back to work under military supervision.

Aena, which operates 45 airports and two heliports in Spain, has more than 13,000 international workers according to their company website.

It also manages 15 other airports across Europe and America, making it the first airport operator in the word in terms of passenger numbers.



The Local 2022/12/12 13:45

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