Created on: February 19, 2013
Spain’s Iberia Airline has cancelled hundreds of flights over the next several days, according to a statement released by company officials. The reason why more than 1,200 flights were cancelled was because thousands of its workers have gone on strike because of job cuts.
The labor unions announced that they would initiate a 15-day strike. Its workers have declared that it will strike between Feb. 18 and Feb. 22, Mar. 4 and Mar. 8 and Mar. 18 and Mar. 22. The unions represent most Iberia workers, such as baggage handlers and air stewards, but excluding pilots, who are slated to join the protests in March.
Management stated that it had already placed 60,000 of the 70,000 affected passengers on alternative flights, according to Reuters. The strike led to at least 230 flights being cancelled on the first day of the strike.
On Monday, the Spanish government confirmed that the strikes will cost roughly $13 million each day and will significantly hut the tourism industry, an important source of revenue for the nation, which has been struggling with high debt loads, a budget deficit and a paucity of economic growth.
The planned protests are due to Iberia's owner, International Airline Group, cutting about 3,800 jobs, which amounts to roughly 20 percent of the carrier's total workforce. The demonstrations are also about potential wage cuts and a decrease in Iberia’s network capacity by 15 percent.
Airline executives argue that between 2008 and 2011 they lost $1.14 billion. Much of the losses have been blamed on the global recession and heavier competition among budget airlines. These aspects have led the company to become unprofitable.
Outside of the Madrid-Barajas airport’s Terminal Four, protesters clashed with police officers. The baton-carrying, anti-riot officers were attempting to prevent the workers from entering the building as they chanted “Yes we can!” At first, police were able to restrain the workers from getting through, but as the day went on, Iberia strikers got through the doors and into the terminal attempting to defend their strike.
Ana Pastor, Spain’s Transportation Minister, pleaded with the airlines and the labor unions – Workers' Commissions union (CCOO), the Spanish Airline Pilots Union (SEPLA) and the General Union of Workers (UGT) – to reach an agreement in order to avoid the significant loss of potential revenues.
“We can't allow Spain to lose more than 10 million euros a day because that kind of hit is going affect all of us,” Pastor stated, according to Al Jazeera.
Spain currently faces a high unemployment rate of nearly 27 percent, while the youth jobless figure stands at 55 percent. It comes as Spanish leaders are implementing austerity measures to help stave off a financial collapse.
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