Air passengers in Spain are being tested as they have to accommodate strikes from easyJet and Iberia Express since this weekend, while Ryanair will be affected (again) next week. All strikes are organized by unions that call for higher salaries in the new collective agreements that are currently being negotiated. Spanish strikes affect Iberia Express, easyJet, and Ryanair.
easyJet has been affected by multiple strikes from pilot union Sepla, which has been demanding that the airline restores their working conditions and salaries to pre-pandemic levels, especially as the carrier benefits from a strong recovery. Talks have been ongoing for six months without success, resulting in the first strikes in July. From August 12-14, the pilot union also went on strike and again from August 27 until today, August 29. Affected are easyJet’s bases in Barcelona, Malaga, and Palma de Mallorca. In July, the cabin crew also threatened to go on strike, but this was averted after union USO reached an agreement.
Iberia Express strike until September 6
The same Union Sindical Obrera is now organizing a cabin crew strike at Iberia Express, which started on Sunday and will last until and including Tuesday, September 6. “We demand decent wage conditions because we have frozen wages since 2015. We have parked the bulk of the demands for later and we have asked the company to update wages by 6.5 percent, in accordance with the CPI of 2021, to call off the strike. But Iberia Express does not agree and has asked us to call off in exchange for nothing”, USO delegate Rubén Ramos said on Sunday in a media statement of the union.
The strike led to the cancelation of eight flights on Sunday from Madrid to Gran Canaria, Palma de Mallorca, Sevilla, and Santiago. Iberia Express said that most passengers had been booked on other flights or given a voucher or a refund. Today, the strike affects ten flights, six on Tuesday, and eight each day from Wednesday until the final day on Tuesday next week. The airline said that it would be able to operate 94 flights or 90.4 percent of all flights today.
The list of canceled flights includes only services that aren’t protected by so-called Minimum Services by the Ministry of Transport. This sparked outrage in the union, with Ruben Ramos saying: “The company is playing a dirty strategy, it is canceling all flights not protected by the minimum services, preventing crews from exercising their right to strike.”
USO said it has filed a complaint against Iberia Express with the Spanish labor inspectorate for coercing cabin crew and asking them by email if they support the strike. The union also complains about the deprogramming of Express cabin crew on services out of London to European destinations, replacing Spanish crew with those of partner airline British Airways. “This is yet another case of scabbing as striking workers are replaced for fear that they will decide to exercise their right and some of these flights will be canceled”, USO says in its statement.
In its own media statement, Iberia Express called on “the responsibility of USO, the union that called for the strike, to call off the strikes and bet on dialogue and not on the social confrontation, which does so much damage to the workers of Iberia Express, its customers and the future of the company.” Parent airline Iberia has scheduled negotiations on a new, multi-year collective agreement for September 15. The airline says that after two years of Covid crisis, it has incurred significant losses of €1.8 billion and has to repay €1.0 billion in debt. While acknowledging that all workers have also been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and action must be taken, it calls on unions to take responsibility.
From September 5, USO has scheduled another four-day strike with Ryanair in Spain. This follows a strike in mid-August. The union said in an August 19 media release that at the time eighteen workers had been dismissed by Ryanair, while disciplinary action had been taken against some 150 staff. USO has filed lawsuits against the Irish low-cost airline to fight the dismissal, which it says is against the constitutional right to strike.
The airline also flew in crew from Ireland to take over from their Spanish colleagues, which are left on duty. “Ryanair is using totally illegal techniques and weapons such as scabbing to make it seem that this strike is not supported by the workers, sanctioning and dismissing crew members for exercising this constitutional right,” USO delegate Lidia Arasanz is quoted. It has filed complaints over scabbing with the Spanish labor inspectorate.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.