Spanish air traffic controllers call four partial strikes

Stoppages due to take place on June 8, 10, 12 and 14 in two, two-hour periods each day

The control tower at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.
The control tower at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.Claudio Álvarez

Spain’s air traffic controllers’ union has called partial strikes for June 8, 10, 12, and 14 to protest the national airport authority’s decision to sanction 61 controllers over a wildcat stoppage that led to the total closure of Spanish air space in December 2010.

The walkouts are set to take place between 10am and 12pm, and between 6pm and 8pm on those days.

Eighty-one percent of Air Traffic Controllers’ Labor Union (USCA) members present at Tuesday’s national assembly voted in favor of the strike after the Enaire airport authority, which is part of the Public Works Ministry, began passing down punishments to personnel involved in the 2010 walkout.

Union members voted to strike after the airport authority in March began passing down punishments to controllers involved in the 2010 stoppage

In most cases the sanctions have consisted of suspensions of employment and pay, the USCA said.

The union is also demanding the reinstatement of a controller in Santiago, who was dismissed four years ago over his role in the strike.

On December 3 and 4, 2010, air traffic controllers across Spain either failed to show up for work or abandoned their posts in order to protest against a decree passed by the then-Socialist government to significantly increase their working hours at the same time as it lowered their salaries by a claimed 30 percent. As a result, the Public Works Ministry ordered the closure of Spanish air space, causing chaos at airports across the country over a holiday weekend.

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The Aena airport authority, as Enaire was then known, subsequently opened disciplinary proceedings against the controllers involved in the walkout, which it suspended after public prosecutors began a criminal investigation in May 2011. After the inquiry was closed, Enaire reopened the proceedings in March and sanctioned 61 controllers from the Barcelona control center.

“This decision by Enaire, which comes five years after the closure of airspace, is especially incomprehensible after judicial proceedings undertaken in 20 courts across the whole of Spain resoundingly concluded that the controllers in the events under judgment had neither disobeyed orders nor abandoned their posts,” the USCA said.

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