Spanish Airport Strikes Planned For April-August

March 8, 2011

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Unions have called 22 days of strikes at Spanish airports during the busy spring and summer season in a protest over government privatisation plans.

"We're not asking for better economic or labour conditions, we just want to keep our jobs," the three main airport worker unions said in a statement.

Spain said in December it wanted to partially privatise state airport operator AENA, which it says could be worth up to EUR€30 billion (USD$42 billion), as part of plans to reduce the national debt.

Private companies would take stakes of up to 49 percent in the country's airports and airport services' business, a sale that is likely to draw both national and foreign interest.

Wildcat strikes by air traffic controllers in early December stranded thousands of passengers and caused chaos at Spanish airports.

AENA said it has set up a meeting with unions on Thursday to try to convince them to call off the industrial action, which it says will endanger Spain's economic recovery.

The 22 days of action are planned between April and August, including Easter.

Air traffic controllers struck a deal last month on pay and are not represented in large numbers by the striking unions, nor are pilots.

"The news comes a month and a half ahead of the strikes. What the unions want is to sit down at the negotiating table," said Joaquin Garcia-Romanillos, analyst at BPI in Madrid.

The first round of privatisations will be a batch of air traffic control towers, for which Spanish builder Ferrovial and UK air navigation service provider NATS have launched a joint bid, competing with a handful of other offers.

That sale will be followed by the privatisation of Spain's biggest airports, Madrid and Barcelona, due to be completed before the end of the first half of 2012.

(Reuters)