REPRESENTATIVES from Spanish airline Iberia will be meeting with some of Spain’s biggest unions on Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to stop a planned strike for ground staff from January 5 to 8.
The stoppage coincides with the Kings Day national holiday and will be a time when many thousands of Spaniards will travel by air.
The Sima mediation and arbitration service has convened the two sides in the ongoing industrial conflict, according to a report in Spanish daily La Vanguardia. Sima is bringing together the CCOO and UGT unions, which originally called the strike, as well as the USO union, which more recently joined the industrial action, for joint talks with Iberia.
Ground staff are responsible for activities such as baggage check-in, meaning that the industrial action could have a major effect on anyone travelling with Iberia, or indeed any flights from other airlines that are being operated by the the former flag carrier such as British Airways, which is part of the same parent group, IAG.
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 is arguing that such an option is not economically viable.
Stoppages were previously announced for the December 29-31 period too, but on December 21 the unions announced that they were postponing those days on the basis that talks between the two sides were progressing and that the Spanish government was due to mediate.
But barely days after unions cancelled those strikes, UGT and CCOO announced that workers will be downing tools across the country from January 5 to 8. The USO union then called its staff to strike on the same days.