Spanish unions to maintain some flights during strike

23rd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spanish unions will allow 20 to 40 percent of international flights to operate during a general strike on September 29 as part of a deal struck with the government Thursday.

Unions and the government brokered the deal on minimum services in the early hours to "guarantee calm during the day of the strike," Transport Secretary Jose Luis Cachfeiro told an overnight news conference.

It is the first time a Spanish government has agreed such a deal with the unions.

The two main unions, the CCOO and UGT, called the strike to protest a sweeping overhaul of the labour market designed to slash soaring unemployment and revive the economy.

Unions are also fighting steep spending cuts, including an average state employee salary reduction of five percent, a pensions freeze and plans to gradually raise the retirement age to 67 from 65.

For international flights, the minimum service deal includes maintaining 20 percent of trips in the European Union flights and 40 percent of those to other countries.

Within Spanish territory, it allows 10 percent of flights within the Spanish peninsula and 50 percent between the peninsula and the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands and the north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

The agreement provides for a minimum of 20 percent of high speed trains and 25 percent of district trains, including 30 percent for morning rush hour. But no regional or long-distance trains are guaranteed.

Between one and three inter-city buses will be allowed to run in each city, it says.

For the last general strike in 2002, then conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar imposed minimum services, angering unions which unsuccessfully sued the government.

It will be the first national strike to confront the Socialist Party government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who came to power in 2004.

However, a poll published early this month in the newspaper El Pais said that only nine percent of workers planned to take part.

Spain's parliament on September 9 gave final approval to the labour market overhaul, which will make it easier and cheaper for employers to hire and fire workers.

Unions have slammed the measures as a backward step, but the government said they will boost competitivity and slash joblessness.

Spain's unemployment rate has soared to more than 20 percent, the highest in the 16-nation euro zone, following the collapse of the building sector at the end of 2008.

The rise in joblessness has jacked up government spending on unemployment benefits, pushing Spain's public deficit to 11.2 percent of gross domestic product last year, the third-highest in the eurozone after Greece and Ireland.

© 2010 AFP

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