Friday, April 13, 2012

Spain: Iberia Pilots, Flight Crews Stage First of Perhaps 30 1-Day Strikes

Last week, Iberia Airlines petitioned a Spanish court to ban strikes by pilots and cabin crew planned over the next few months and to seek compensation for 12 days of strikes held between December and March.

The strikes were briefly called off in March and pilots went into talks with the company, but negotiations eventually broke down.

On Monday, April 9, the pilots and flight crews, through their union, SEPLA, conducted a one-day strike and are threatening to hold upwards of as many as 30 one-day strikes, to draw attention to how Iberia Express will pose a threat to jobs and conditions for Iberia flight crews, but the company says it is vital to increasing profitability. Iberia estimates that each of the one-day strikes will cost Iberia 3 million euros per day.

COMMENT: SEPLA said it is willing to sit down with the company to negotiate a solution to the conflict, based on a proposal it has made to save about 90 million euros a year through measures such as lowering salaries for new hires.

Despite receipt of the proposal from SEPLA, the union has said they've heard nothing from Iberia. SEPLA has also advised overhauling the salaries of Iberia directors.

More than 150 flights were canceled on April 9, including destinations within Spain, around Europe, and to Latin America. Pilots, who plan to strike every Monday and Friday until July 2012, say Iberia's new low-cost service contravenes deals struck when Iberia and British Airways merged to form International Consolidated Airlines Group.

SEPLA also contends that 8,000 jobs will be lost as Iberia moves a few dozen airplanes to the low-cost subsidiary from its full-service airline.

Like airlines in the US, European airlines are battling soaring fuel prices, weak demand from cash-strapped passengers and the burden of new taxes on air travel as well as fierce competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet.

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