Iberia strikes blow to pilots with 20-percent wage slash

Move is part of series of measures to cut costs and increase productivity by 25 percent Cockpit staff is sole area still to agree new collective bargaining deal

Iberia planes grounded by a one-day strike by pilots on Monday.
Iberia planes grounded by a one-day strike by pilots on Monday.ÁNGEL DÍAZ (EFE)

Spanish airline Iberia is to slash its pilots’ salaries by 20 percent as part of a series of measures to reduce its costs and increase productivity by 25 percent. Iberia’s cockpit staff is the sole area of the company’s operations that has failed to reach an agreement over a new collective bargaining deal, despite talks that have stretched out over two-and-a-half years. Iberia’s cost-cutting in this department is expected to amount to 62 million euros.

In a communiqué, the airline justified the measure, which will only affect pilots, by highlighting the necessity to be “more competitive” in order to confront “with greater guarantees of success the difficult situation we face, caused by low demand, high fuel prices and strong competition.”

Iberia had previously stated it would apply the pay-cutting mechanism of the Popular Party (PP) government’s controversial labor reform in its negotiations with union representatives.

Iberia stated that the current situation had been “seriously aggravated” by strike action by the pilots’ union Sepla that has been ongoing since last December, leading to daily losses of three million euros. The pilots are protesting what they consider to be poor conditions for workers at Iberia Express, the airline’s new low-cost carrier.

Iberia’s financial director, José María Fariza, said that this “battery of measures” with which the airline is seeking to become “profitable” is “in line with the reality of other airlines in our area of business and is absolutely necessary to successfully compete in a globalized market.”

Increased activity

In terms of increasing productivity, Iberia has indicated that pilots will be expected to work longer hours, “always within the limits established by law.”

To this end, the airline will fix the maximum limit of flight hours to 900 per year — the current collective agreement allows for 820 or 850 hours depending on the fleet — although the average, according to Iberia’s figures, is around 650 hours per year.

Iberia lamented the fact that Sepla did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, and said its absence “demonstrated the lack of will of the union to negotiate.”

Sepla has given Iberia’s call to end the strike short shrift. The airline has apologized to passengers and stated that it will put in place “all the measures at our disposal to minimize its impact.”

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