Spanish airport workers reach agreement to avert strikes
Spain's airport operator AENA and trade unions signed a preliminary agreement Wednesday to avert a series of strikes during the busy spring and summer season.
Last week the unions representing airport workers announced 22 days of planned strikes, including during Easter week and the May bank holiday, to protest government plans announced in December to sell off 49 percent of AENA.
The AENA stake sale is key to government efforts to reduce the public deficit and avoid the need for a bailout like those granted Ireland and Greece but unions fear it will lead to job losses and poorer working conditions.
The agreement signed Wednesday covers working conditions and it guarantees that the number of jobs at AENA will be maintained, the airport operators said in a statement.
"If it is approved by workers, it will lead to the cancellation of the announced strikes," the statement added.
The strikes would deal a blow to Spain's key tourism industry just as it was getting a boost in visitor numbers, in part because some sunseekers are shunning in Egypt and Tunisia due to the anti-government uprisings there.
Spain received 2.66 million foreign tourists in January, a 4.7 percent increase over the same month last year and the first rise in 18 months and hotels had reported a boost in bookings for the summer.
The tourism sector accounts for around 10 percent of Spain gross domestic product.
AENA employs 11,000 workers, including security staff and baggage handlers, at 47 Spanish airports.
Air traffic controllers in December staged a wildcat strike over pay and working conditions which left more than 200,000 passengers stranded on a holiday weekend.
Spain's government forced the controllers to return to work by declaring a state of alert, putting the military in command and threatening jail for those who refused.
© 2011 AFP