Spain’s second largest airport, the Barcelona–El Prat Josep Tarradellas Airport, may be in the midst of one of the country’s worst employee walkouts. In July 2019, Spain’s flag carrier, Iberia, announced that they intended to stage a walk out.
The cause – the staff’s working condition. According to airport insiders, Iberia’s labour union representatives claimed that El Prat Airport and contractor Trablisa consistently refused to elevate employees’ working conditions despite repeated requests from the airline.
As per employees’ statements, airport authorities have failed to reduce the staff’s extremely long work hours and hire more people to plug-in labour gaps, leading to existing employees being tremendously overworked.
The dates of the strike were July 27th 2019 and July 28th 2019. In a statement released to the press, Iberia’s spokesperson apologised to passengers for the inconvenience. He stated that those passengers who were issued a ticket to fly to or from Barcelona on an Iberia flight on July 25th could ask for a re-schedule any time after the strike, up till August 4th 2019. The helpline telephone number was kept open 24/7 to facilitate easy rebooking.
Reports about the strike indicate that as many as 1000 flights were affected by the walkout, leaving millions of passengers stranded in Barcelona, preventing Spaniards from returning home.
In an effort to keep the airport operational, the Spanish Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure established minimum transport coverage for the days of the strike. But this minimum coverage meant that only 54% of all international flights and 32% of all national airlines were in operation.
Union negotiations fall through
The failure of Iberia’s worker union and contractor Trablisa to reach a mutually satisfactory consensus during last-minute negotiations was the primary reason for the strikes on July 27th& 28th. While Iberia’s management has confirmed that the company is not in favour of the walkout, they believe that Barcelona’s El Prat Airport must take union requests more seriously. An internal vote organised by Iberia in the first week of August found all 175 voters refusing the company’s proposal to end the strike and get back to work.
The July strikes created massive mayhem in El Prat Airport, with many passengers being stuck in boarding lines for hours. Flights on the runway remained grounded as Iberia pilots refused to take-off until negotiations came to an end. Operations partially resumed on July 29th, but negotiations were still in progress.
On August 9th 2019, El Prat Airport’s security staff joined Iberia in staging a strike, following complaints of limited holiday periods. With many security staff refusing to scan baggage and check-in passengers, travellers were forced to wait for over 40 minutes in line before they were allowed to go through security.
August to see more strikes
The aftermath of the July strikes is still felt in Barcelona’s El Prat Airport. Iberia’s union’s insiders state that the second round of talks too has failed and the union has plans of staging another walkout on August 24th, 25th, 30th, and 31st.
The upcoming strike is expected to not only affect Iberia, but will also impact the operations of Iberia Express,Air Nostrum, Vueling, Air Lingus, and British Airways. Travellers are thus requested to find out the status of their flights before they travel to El Prat Airport.