Update on Spain Airports: Barcelona Airport Strike Goes Nationwide

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Earlier this month I wrote about the labor conflict between the security checkpoint personnel at Barcelona El Prat International Airport and their employer, a contractor of AENA, the semi-private company in charge of operating the vast majority of airports in Spanish territory (access here).

After the terror attacks of last week the local branch of the union decided to hit pause on their strike to assure a smooth operation of the airport in what have been very difficult days in the city. But the national union has decided to escalate the conflict nationwide, calling for industrial action in all Spanish airports from September 15.

From El País (access here):

AENA’s 8,200 employees are calling for pay rises of around 8%, as well as the hiring of around 700 people.

Wednesday’s move by the labor unions involves first presenting a request for arbitration. If no agreement has been reached within seven days, then labor unions will officially convene a strike with the Labor Ministry.

This approach should leave room to reach a solution. Otherwise, 24-hour stoppages will take place on the following dates in September: 15, 17, 22, 24 and 29, with follow ups in October: 1, 6, 11, 15, 27, 30, and 31. There would be stoppages in November: 3 and 5, with further action in December: 1,4,5,7, 8, 10, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30.

The strikes would affect all essential services for the operation of the affected airports.

At the bottom of the situation is the privatization of AENA. Now shareholders have to be paid dividends, meaning than in years of record passenger traffic in Spanish airports (and therefore record benefits for the company), the staff has seen their wages remain stagnant and the hirings frozen even though some airports have experienced significant growth on passenger traffic. Do more with fewer resources and rush the cash to the top seems to be the policy.

Conclusion

The partial solution the Spanish government (AENA’s controlling shareholder) implemented in Barcelona was militarizing the airport, giving the Military Police (Guardia Civil) oversight on security checkpoints. This solution is not possible to implement on a national scale as now not only security checkpoints but also all airport operations are called to strike.

Negotiations between AENA and the unions are on the way, with the first meeting between both parts called for today. We will keep you informed on the developments of this situation.

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