Iberia pilots shun restructuring talks with airline’s management

Sepla union says negotiations must await new arbitration ruling on Iberia Express

Iberia’s pilots union Sepla on Tuesday snubbed a meeting with the airline’s management to negotiate a restructuring plan that involves the dismissal of close to a quarter of the company’s workforce and wage cuts of up to 47 percent, arguing it was “essential” to wait for a new ruling on the group’s low-cost carrier Iberia Express.

Iberia’s pilots held a series of one-day strikes earlier this year to protest the creation of Iberia Express, arguing that it was a back-door ploy to push wages down at the parent company. The union also voiced concerns that Iberia itself could eventually become a low-cost division of International Airlines Group, the holding company for its merger with British Airways.

The arbitrator appointed by the government, Jaime Montalvo, ruled that Iberia was within its rights to set up Iberia Express, set up salary scales for both companies and imposed a freeze on wages until the end of 2014. However, the High Court earlier this month annulled the ruling following a complaint by Iberia Express that, as an interested party to the dispute, it was not present at any of the mediation meetings.

IAG has planned a transformation plan for loss-making Iberia that entails 4,500 job cuts, about 23 percent of its total workforce. The restructuring also involves a reorganization of the airline’s structure that includes farming out handling activities to IAG Cargo.

IAG has threatened even more drastic measures in the absence of an agreement with labor representatives on the restructuring by the deadline of January 31.

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