Palma airport bosses warned last night they will close Son Sant Joan airport during next weekend's threatened coach strike as soon as the number of coaches blocking the airport car park reaches 80. Talks to avert the strike are going nowhere, and yesterday there were warnings from airport bosses, the tourist sector and even coach company managment that flights will be diverted to other destinations or even cancelled should industrial action go ahead. Airport director Mariano Menor hopes that his tough stance, which has been backed by the tourist sector, will make coach drivers think again, but the airport has also drawn up a contingency plan to ease the burden for over 300'000 tourists who will have their holiday ruined and prevent complete chaos. While the Balearic government continues to try and project a positive image of the islands overseas, it is facing very serious problems on its own doorstep. If coach drivers take industrial action, over 300'000 air passengers will be directly affected and as many holidays and business trips ruined with Majorca's image dragged through the international media mire yet again. Strike action is set to go ahead on June 29, 30 and July 1. Yesterday the President of the Balearic Coach Company sector, Jaume Batle, spelt out the consequences of the strike. According to Batle, the biggest stumbling block in negotiations is that the unions “will not accept our offer to decide exactly when drivers take their two days off after every six days on, depending on the volume of traffic and work load at the airport.” Coach company managers want to have drivers readily available over the busy summer, but the union claims that the proposal is “not viable”. With regards to the 22 per cent pay increase drivers are demanding over the next three years, Batle said that the figure is far too high. There have been suggestions that coach companies take on extra staff during the summer, but Batle believes that would not solve anything saying it would merely be a case of “bread today and starvation tomorrow” as any extra summer staff would only be on short term contracts. Batle also pointed out that coach drivers in the Balearics are some of the highest paid in Spain. “The management does not want a strike,” Batle said, adding that over the past few years, 15 coach companies have disappeared. Batle yesterday repeated calls for the local government to set up an arbitration panel and help reach a solution at least so that minimum services are in operation and that the consumers' rights to be transported to and from the aiport are honoured. Batle accused drivers and the unions of having not been very co-operative over the past few weeks and that the management is saddened by the fact that industrial action is being threatened just as the tourist season reaches its peak. On Tuesday, Batle said that the management wil be holding a general assembly to discuss the situation, but he said it appears that the unions are too busy arranging the strike instead of trying to find a solution.


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