Iberia unions to call fresh strikes as talks deadline passes

Company’s improved offer of 16-percent staff cut rejected amid return to “confrontation”

Iberia’s handling, maintenance and cabin-crew unions are considering “no fewer than five days of strikes” during the second half of February after talks with management over restructuring plans for the airline broke down, union sources said on Friday. On the day of the deadline set by IAG, the holding that resulted from the merger of Iberia and British Airways, the six labor unions walked away from the negotiating table, calling IAG’s proposal “blackmail.”

In a joint release, the unions said that “confrontation is the only way out.”

For its part, IAG said that a deal had not been reached and that “Iberia will go ahead with the previously announced 15-percent reduction in capacity for 2013.” This means that initial plans to reduce staff by 4,500 individuals, or 23 percent of the workforce, also remain in place.

Willie Walsh, the CEO of IAG, expressed “disappointment” over the lack of agreement but added that “Iberia remains ready to negotiate with the unions” while stressing his determination to implement the “necessary changes to ensure the survival and future viability of Iberia.”

Management made a last-minute offer to the unions on Thursday that improved conditions over the initial plans, including a 16-percent staff reduction and a route cut of 10 percent rather than 15 percent. But the unions felt that the numbers did not add up as long as profitability targets are maintained. Iberia’s goal is to improve its operating results by 600 million euros between now and 2015.

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