BUSINESS

Iberia agrees to new talks with labor on restructuring to avoid strikes

Airline will negotiate five-year viability plan

Under pressure from the government, the management of Iberia has agreed to sit down with representatives of the airline’s workforce to negotiate a new five-year adjustment plan aimed at guaranteeing the carrier’s viability and including investments amounting to millions of euros.

IAG, the holding company for the merger of Iberia and British Airways, had presented a restructuring plan that calls for 4,500 job cuts, about 23 percent of the Spanish airline’s workforce, a reduction in the number of routes Iberia offers, and salary reductions of between 25 to 35 percent on average. The unions argued that BA wants to run Iberia into the ground to get hold of its assets on the cheap.

In response, labor unions representing cabin crew and ground staff announced a series of one-day stoppages just ahead of the Christmas period, which they eventually called off out of “consideration” for the public. Further strike calls were being considered for the start of next year.

Iberia’s management has agreed that some 3,000 of the planned 4,500 layoffs would take the form of early retirement deals. The two sides will also work on the assumption that the labor force adjustment plan to be applied will be based on rules that predate the rigorous labor reform introduced in February of this year.

Labor union sources attributed the shift in the company’s stance to ongoing pressure from government officials for dialogue between the two sides to agree a plan that guarantees the future of the airline. The government urged Iberia to ensure that the planned cut in 15 percent of the routes served by Iberia does not impact Spain’s connections with the rest of the world. Iberia planned to cancel direct flights to Havana and Santo Domingo sparking a complaint by Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister José Manuel Soria.

Iberia also agreed to invest in the renovation of its fleet to save on fuel and to keep its handling and maintenance division until 2017. The company is still looking to reach an accord by the end of January but acceded to demands to continue negotiations beyond that deadline if the talks were heading in the right direction. Previously, Iberia had threatened even more “drastic” measures if there was no agreement by January 31.

Public Works Minister Ana Pastor said Monday that her department “will continue to work to ensure the two sides reach an agreement.”

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