Iberia strikers clash with police
Striking union workers clashed with police at Madrid’s Barajas airport yesterday on the first day of a week-long strike over more than 3,800 pending job cuts at Spain’s flagship airline Iberia.
More than 80 Iberia flights were cancelled as workers at the carrier began a series of five-day walkouts that are expected to cost the airline and struggling national economy millions of euro in lost business.
Previous strikes have cost Iberia between €2 million and €3 million a day, a spokesman said.
Air stewards and ground staff are holding three five-day strikes in February and March to protest against management plans to axe jobs and cut salaries at the loss-making airline. Some 10 per cent of long-haul flights and half of domestic flights will be grounded this week.
Iberia, which merged with profitable British Airways in 2011 to form the International Airlines Group (IAG), reported a loss of €262 million in the first nine months of 2012.
Although skeleton staff were on duty and the airline had rescheduled most passengers or returned them their money, some were left stranded.
The strike coincides with school holidays in Britain and France, Spain’s biggest source of tourists.
Tourism accounts for about 11 per cent of Spanish economic output and is one of the country’s few growth sectors in a prolonged recession that has pushed the unemployment rate above 26 per cent.
In anticipation of the strike, Iberia has cancelled 415 flights, and as many as 1,200 flights operated by various airlines will be disrupted because some Iberia workers handle baggage for other airlines at airports around Spain.
The airline says restructuring is vital to return the Spanish unit to profitability while unions say the IAG management is degrading pay and benefits in Spain through its new low-cost airline Iberia Express. – (Reuters)