Spanish unions postpone Christmas airport strike action

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Spanish unions postpone Christmas airport strike action
Iberia aircraft at Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO/AFP.

Spanish trade unions have postponed strike action that threatened to disrupt travel during the Christmas and New Year period after the government stepped in to mediate negotiations.


The CCOO and UGT unions representing Iberia airport staff held meetings this week with both Spain's Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility and Iberia airline to try and resolve the dispute, which centred on the issue of the creation of a “self-handling service.”

In a statement, unions said they had decided to postpone the strike action “in view of the opening of a new negotiation framework which the government will participate in."

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Iberia sources told the Spanish press that they will meet with union leaders and government representatives to establish their starting positions for negotiations and from there, “as a private company, we will negotiate bilaterally with the unions with the best willingness to reach an agreement."

The dispute first arose because Iberia, unions claim, 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 8,000 staff employed at the Iberia Airport Services subsidiary would be affected.

The proposed strike dates were chosen for maximum impact, and would have severely disrupted travel plans for passengers at airports across Spain on December 29th, 30th and 31st, as well as on January 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

Though it is Iberia ground staff in dispute with the airline, the walk-outs would have affected several airlines because Iberia Airport Services - the airline's subsidiary that provides ground services, including passenger transfer, loading and baggage collection, and ramp services to planes - usually handles ground services for several other airlines and Iberia Express, the budget ranch of Iberia.


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

In November, unions also 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.


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