Air controllers vote en masse for August strike action

Spain's air traffic controllers yesterday voted emphatically in favor of staging a strike during August, in what would be the first official case of downing tools in the sector in the nation's history.

Of 1,883 controllers who participated in the vote, 98 percent came out in favor of a strike, although the date and duration of any action is yet to be decided. The spokesman for the controllers' union USCA, Daniel Zamit, indicated that a strike may occur on either August 18 or 20. Legally, 10 days' notice is required before any stoppage.

The Public Works Ministry, which has been locked in a heated struggle with USCA since reforms to the working conditions of controllers altered schedules to reduce overtime hours in February, has been charged with imposing tough conditions regarding minimum services during any strike, which would impact negatively on tourism in the busiest time of year for the sector.

The state-run airports authority, AENA, has accused controllers of staging a covert strike, with absenteeism in the sector up threefold since February. USCA has protested a proposed 40-percent pay cut for controllers and demanded the rescission of "the absolute availability of workers 365 days a year." Blanco last month mooted the deployment of specially trained military personnel to cover in the case of large-scale absenteeism among air traffic controllers.

(Published by El País – August 4, 2010)

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