Spanish air controllers in deal to avoid strike

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The union representing Spain's air traffic controllers, which had threatened to call a strike this month, Friday reached an agreement with management over their working conditions.

The deal between the Union of Air Traffic Controllers and the state-run airport management authority, AENA, is expected to be signed later Friday, said USCA spokesman Cesar Cap.

It would put an end to months of negotiations over a new collective agreement for the sector.

The negotiations began in February after a government decree to slash what it said were the "millionaire salaries" and "incomprehensible privileges" enjoyed by the controllers at a time when the country is undergoing belt-tightening amid an economic crisis.

The government last month also introduced a decree on working conditions which would reduce rest periods and cut generous overtime benefits.

The controllers had threatened to go on strike in August but backed down on Tuesday in the face of concerns voiced by the air transport and tourist sectors over the effect such a move would have on a key industry at the height of the tourist season.

Cabo, whose union represents 95 percent of Spain's 2,400 controllers, said the deal reached Friday would ease their working hours in order to "reconcile work and family life."

It must still be ratified by the controllers themselves at a general assembly.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Tuesday had called on the controllers to take a decision "as soon as possible" on whether to call a strike, which he said has already caused "uncertainty" and "negative effects."

© 2010 AFP

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