Iberia pilots plan two more strike days

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Pilots at Spanish flagship airline Iberia will stage two more days of strikes next month to protest the company's launch of a new low-cost airline, their union said Thursday.

The pilots will walk off the job on January 9 and 11, a spokeswoman for Spanish pilots' union SEPLA said.

"Talks with the company have not born fruit. If we are able to reach an agreement with the company before then the strikes will be called off," she said.

Iberia reported little disruption Thursday from a one-day pilots' strike which led to it cancelling 118 of the 329 scheduled flights -- 10 percent of long-haul flights, 38 percent of medium-range flights, and 43 percent of domestic flights.

The carrier was able to reseat all of the estimated 10,000 affected passengers, an airline spokeswoman said.

Another one-day strike by Iberia pilots on December 18 also led to the cancellation of about one-third of the flights.

Iberia pilots called the strikes over the airline's launch of a new offshoot, budget carrier Iberia Express, which they fear will lead to lower salaries for newly hired pilots.

The new budget carrier will handle short- and medium-haul flights, which have been facing heavy competition from other low-cost carriers and Spain's high-speed trains.

Pilots fear the salaries to be offered by the new airline will be too low and a SEPLA union spokeswoman said further industrial action may follow if talks with management fail to resolve the dispute.

Iberia says the decision to launch the new carrier is up to management and is "non-negotiable".

"The creation of Iberia Express is legal, legitimate and necessary to guarantee the future of Iberia in an incresingly difficult competitive context," the airline said in a statement.

"It will not affect salary and labour conditions of any of Iberia's existing employees and it will allow the company to be more profitable and create new jobs," it added.

© 2011 AFP

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