Spain's air space reopened after strike

Spain's government says the country's air space reopened after a closure prompted by striking air traffic controllers.

Spain's air space reopened after strike

Spain's government says the country's air space on Saturday reopened after a closure prompted by striking air traffic controllers.

The return comes after the government placed the strikers under military authority and threatened them with jail terms under the military penal code.

Spanish government declared its first state of emergency in the post-Franco era.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba vowed there would be no repeat of the strike.

"We will not allow a repeat of a situation like this. There will not be any problems over the Christmas holidays or after the Christmas holidays. That is the government's promise," Rubalcaba told a press conference.

More than 90 percent of the controllers had returned to work by Saturday evening, but it could still take up to 48 hours for air traffic to return to normal after Spanish airspace was reopened during the afternoon, he added.

Spain's Socialist government called in the army to take over control towers and threatened legal action against individual strikers who are locked in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions with the state-run airports authority AENA.

Many airlines, including Spanish flag carrier Iberia and Ryanair, cancelled flights. Iberia hopes to restart most long-haul services by the end of Saturday.

The government had earlier declared a state of emergency, the first since the end of military rule with the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.

The unofficial stoppage followed cabinet approval of changes to rules on the number of hours air traffic controllers can work per year and of a law allowing the army to take over air space in times of emergency.

Unions have also condemned plans to sell off 49 percent of AENA to raise up to 9 billion euros.

Friday's walkout disrupted travel for some 250,000 people on one of Spain's busiest holiday weekends.

"We arrived at the airport at seven in the morning and it was surrounded by military trucks full of soldiers and riot police. They offered to put us on the waiting list but warned us we wouldn't be flying until Monday at the earliest," Esther Rojas said in Madrid's Barajas airport.

The controllers gave no warning before starting their walkout by claiming sick leave and leaving their posts, effectively closing the whole of Spanish airspace except the southern region of Andalucia.

The air traffic controllers' union, USCA, said its workers were not on strike but had had enough. "This is a popular revolt," USCA head Camilo Cela told Reuters.


Agencies

Last Mod: 05 Aralık 2010, 13:58
Add Comment