Authorities clash with workers at Madrid airport during Iberia strike
By Catherine MacDonald and Sarah Morris, ReutersMADRID--Striking union workers clashed with police at Madrid's Barajas airport on Monday on the first day of a week-long strike over more than 3,800 pending job cuts at Spain's flagship airline Iberia.
February 20, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
More than 80 Iberia flights were cancelled as workers at the carrier began a series of five-day walkouts that are expected to cost the airline and struggling national economy millions of euros in lost business.
Hundreds of workers flooded into Terminal 4 at Barajas — the biggest airport in Spain — to noisily protest, chanting and whistling, with one group staging a sit-in. About 2,000 people demonstrated outside the terminal.
The police beat some strikers with truncheons to keep them away from the doors of the international airport, Iberia's Madrid hub, and forcefully threw others out of the terminal. At least five protesters were arrested.
Previous strikes have cost Iberia between 2 million and 3 million euros a day, a spokesman told Reuters.
Flights from other airlines were delayed at airports across Spain, including at Madrid and Barcelona, as Iberia baggage handlers, also working for other airlines, joined strikers.
Air stewards and ground staff are holding three five-day strikes in February and March to protest against management plans to axe jobs and cut salaries at the loss-making airline. Some 10 percent of long-haul flights and half of domestic flights will be grounded this week.
Labor unions kicked off the strikes with demonstrations in the morning at most Spanish airports, including Barcelona. At an 8-km march (5 miles) around Barajas, protesters blamed British managers at the airline group for job cuts threatened in Spain.
Demonstrators waved Spanish flags and banners saying “British go home.”
Iberia, which merged with profitable British Airways in 2011 to form the International Airlines Group (IAG), reported a loss of 262 million euros (US$349.78 million) in the first nine months of 2012.
“Nobody is safe from being sacked,” said Elias Gonzalez, a maintenance supervisor at the Barajas protest who has worked for Iberia for 27 years.
“There was an initial deal with the company when the merger with the British was agreed, but now there is disagreement.”