THE Spanish government tried to get tough with rebellious air traffic controllers in a dispute over pay and working conditions but the move failed as the controllers went on strike. The government had no contingency plans and for 24 hours Spain became a no-fly zone. In the end a state of emergency was declared and the controllers forced back to work, some allegedly at gun point others faced a military tribunal or even prosecution for an illegal strike.
The holiday plans of thousands of people have been ruined. It is another sign that the Spanish government is in crisis as it tries to battle a serious economic downturn. The government announced a whole series of unpopular measures this week, from privatising the airports (which led to the controllers strike) to selling off the national lottery and raising taxes on tobacco and reducing social security payments. Already airport workers are threatening industrial action and Spain faces a winter of discontent while the government tries to convince anyone who will listen that it doesn´t need a European Union bailout.
The Spanish government, in the end managed to end the dispute but the cost will be high; thousands of people are still left stranded. Hopefully this is not a taste of things to come but as I have said frequently in this space, Zapatero is facing the biggest battle of his life. There is widespread unrest and unemployment at record levels. Zapatero will either go down in history as Zapatero the saviour or simply Zapatero, the Mr. Bean look alike.