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Iberia Strikes Called Off After Deal Agreed

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Workers at Iberia on Wednesday called off further strikes over job and salary cuts at the loss-making Spanish airline after accepting a deal from a government-appointed mediator.

Workers staged two five-day walkouts in February and March which Iberia, owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), said meant losses of around EUR€30 million (USD$39.1 million). Thousands of flights were cancelled.

"It's time to pull together and look to the future and to apologize to all our customers for the inconvenience caused over the last few weeks," said Iberia chief executive Rafael Sanchez-Lozano.

Iberia says it needs to restructure to meet tough competition in a depressed Spanish economy from low-cost rivals such as easyJet and Ryanair.

IAG on Sunday accepted proposals from Gregorio Tudela, a university professor brought in to broker a deal, to shed 3,141 jobs instead of the 3,807 it planned and to soften pay cuts.

Spain's unemployment level has risen to 26 percent in a deep economic crisis and the country's biggest companies are continuing to announce massive layoffs.

Iberia is one of many companies that proposed big workforce reductions early in 2013. Spain's 35 largest firms are planning 35,000 job cuts in the first part of the year.

Sabadell Bolsa analysts estimated the terms in the Iberia settlement proposal would increase the cost of pay-offs to EUR€410 million from EUR€250 million.

Pilots' union Sepla did not agree to the new terms, though the restructuring plan will still go ahead because it was backed by ground and cabin crew unions.

"Iberia hopes that Sepla, which has not backed the agreement reached by 93 percent of staff, reconsiders and does so soon," Iberia said in a statement.

The company also said that it would meet with unions immediately to discuss how to raise workforce productivity, adding that job cuts and salary reductions must be accompanied by greater efficiency.

(Reuters)