21 Dec, 2023 @ 11:10
1 min read

Airport strikes in Spain latest: Iberia workers delay the start date of their walk out

A320 Iberia Express Ec Jsk 03
Iberia Express cabin crew members in Spain set to protest this Friday Credit: Wikimedia

AIR TRAVELLERS in Spain this Christmas can breathe a sigh of relief – for now, anyway. Strikes that were due to be called over the holiday season by Spanish airline Iberia’s ground staff have been postponed, and may not go ahead at all. 

The country’s biggest labour unions, UGT and CCOO, had announced stoppages for the dates December 29-31, January 1, and January 4-7. 

Ground staff are responsible for activities such as baggage check-in, meaning that the industrial action could have had a major effect on anyone travelling with Iberia, or indeed any flights from other airlines that were being operated by the the former flag carrier such as British Airways, which is part of the same parent group, IAG. 

On Wednesday, the unions announced that they were delaying the official registration of the stoppages on the basis that conversations with the airline are progressing. A statement they released yesterday, and reported in Spanish media, said that the government would be intervening in the talks as a mediator. 

A320 Iberia Express Ec Jsk 03
Iberia ground staff were due to start a strike on December 29. Credit: Wikimedia

The January strikes could still be registered, however. The unions are expected to make an announcement about that today. 

Iberia, for its part, denied that it had agreed to the government taking part in the negotiations, according to a report from news agency Europa Press. 

The conflict began back in September when Iberia lost its licences to provide ground handling services in eight Spanish airports, including Barcelona, Malaga, Alicante and Gran Canaria. 

Under the terms of their collective agreements, these Iberia ground staff will have to be transferred to the companies who successfully won the licences. 

These workers fear, however, that they will lose their current salaries and other working conditions and are calling instead for Iberia to resort to ‘autohandling’ – i.e. using an internal company to offer these services. 

Iberia argues that such an option is not economically viable. But in the ongoing negotiations the option of a ‘mixed’ service has been mooted, according to Spanish daily El Pais

This would see a new company created, with the new licence holder having an 80% stake and a minority group from IAG, called Yellow Handling, taking the remaining 20%. 

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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