Spain’s air traffic controllers have called off a strike planned for later this month, saying they don’t want to further dent the country’s troubled tourism industry.
Around 300,000 British tourists stood to have their holidays ruined following the breakdown of negotiations over pay and working conditions on Friday.
But after an outcry from Spain’s tourist industry and a damning response from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the UNSCA union has vowed to postpone the action.
Spain’s tourism industry was hit particularly hard by the recession and, although many Britons will holiday there this summer, its overall visitor numbers have dropped dramatically the third year in a row.
UNSCA spokesman Cesar Cabo said: ‘The union understands the concerns of the tourism sector and passengers.’
Uncertainty over the possibility of strikes had already hurt last-minute bookings, which are lower than predicted. But tourism and airline officials feared visitor numbers could fall even further after talks with Spain’s airport authority AENA broke down last week.
Many tourists had already looked at cancelling or postponing their trips.
‘We would have liked the decision to be definitive and not just for the month of August,’ said Juan Ignacio Lema, chairman of AENA, in a statement.
However, he said AENA was pleased with the decision and would resume talks with USCA with the aim of reaching an agreement ‘as soon as possible’.
Air traffic controllers’ relatively high salaries and short working hours have been severely criticised by the Spanish media, particularly as the union’s strike threats are over pay cuts and a drop in overtime for workers.
A group of Spain’s major hotel chains, travel agents, tour operators and airlines had demanded the union stop the strikes at whatever cost in a public statement.
‘If no agreement is reached between the two parties in the next few hours, we demand the unions accept AENA’s offer of arbitration and immediately call off the air strike threat,’ they said.
IATA had also warned that industrial action would threaten Spain’s fragile recovery.
‘This is not the time for strikes,’ said IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani.
‘Arbitration is a fair, open and balanced means to settle the differences between Aena and the air traffic controllers. And it would avoid debilitating disruption to Spain’s economy.’
The action is now postponed while negotiations resume.