Unions in Spain call airport strikes over Christmas and New Year period

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Unions in Spain call airport strikes over Christmas and New Year period
The planned Iberia strike will take place on 8 days over Christmas. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

Ground services staff working for Iberia are set to walk out at airports across Spain on eight dates during the Christmas and New Year period, threatening to disrupt travel for thousands of people at one of the busiest times of the year.


The UGT and CCOO unions have called the industrial action for Iberia's ground care service staff in all Spanish airports where Spain's flagship airline operates.

The strike dates will be December 29th, 30th and 31st, as well as January 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, meaning that, if the action goes ahead, both the New Year period and Christmas (which in Spain is celebrated all the way through to January 6th) will be disrupted.

In January of 2023, Iberia was named the most 'on-time' airline in Europe according to data from Cirium, an aviation analytics firm. 

The dispute has arisen because Iberia, unions say, will not create a "self-handling" service (ground services provided by the company itself) at airports where it recently lost a public tender for services called by Aena, the Spanish airport operator.

Unions fear that the outsourcing of former Iberia workers to new service operators will negatively impact their working conditions and rights. In total, around 3,000 of the more than 7,000 staff employed at the Iberia Airport Services subsidiary would be affected.

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Iberia argues that it has never done "self-handling" ground services at airports and has always outsourced the services to third party companies. It also claims to have been in constant dialogue with workers and union representatives since it lost the Aena handling tender, held in late-September, in order to "satisfy the main concerns of its workers."

The airline also states that under the terms and conditions of the pre-existing sector agreement, the outsourcing of workers to other companies guarantees that they fully retain their labour rights and salary and overtime rights, including plane tickets that they are entitled to as Iberia employees.

With regards to the strike action, Iberia made a statement expressing its "enormous disappointment" at the "irresponsible" call for strike action "in the midst of negotiating a viable solution for handling", and on dates that "damage the right to holidays and the reunification of families and friends on such important dates."

Spanish trade unions have called strike action on several forms of transport in recent weeks and months before making progress in negotiations or reaching settlements and calling them off.


In November, unions threatened to paralyse Spain's Renfe train network over the transfer of Catalan Rodalies services to the regional government as part of a controversial deal between separatists parties and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Socialist’s in order to gain a majority for his re-election. The strike was ultimately called off.

READ ALSO: Spain's five-day rail strike called off at the last minute

Unions also previously called industrial action at all airports in Spain during the long public holiday week in early December, but the stoppage was also cancelled after representatives came to an agreement with the Aseata employers' association, which integrates all companies that provide ground services at airports.


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