Job cuts and economic fears hit the local economy hard.


The unions and Spanish Civil Aviation are considering launching separate investigation's into Air Europa's announcement on Monday that it was grounding its turbo-prop island and city hopper fleet at midnight and that as many as 800 jobs in the Balearics could be lost. But the cost-cutting exercise, which should have been made with at least two months warning according to the Civil Aviation, has not just angered the unions, but also thrown the future of hundreds of local families in to doubt with Christmas just around the corner. Air Europa says that the decision was made in response to the aviation crisis caused by the September 11 attacks, the return of six leased planes and their crew by Iberia and an increase in airport operating costs, but the pilots' union Sepla says that Air Europe has not adopted the correct solutions. But the crisis has not only hit the aviation industry in the Balearics. Before the September 11 attacks, unemployment was already at its highest level for the past decade and jobs are also under threat at one of the region's most famous companies, Perlas Majorica in Manacor. Talks to save as much of the work force as possible are ongoing, but for some employees the inevitable appears unavoidable. Prior to Air Europa's decision, flag carrier Iberia announced a series of widespread job cuts, some of which will affect the Balearics as the airline sets about reducing its work force by at least 11 per cent. The Balearic government expressed its concerns within days of the attacks and asked central government to help protect the 5'000 Balearic jobs in the aviation sector. But last month, September, unemployment in the Balearics rose by 3.19 per cent, on the back of a 3.06 per cent increase in August, taking the total number of jobless to just over 16'000 people, nearly five per cent of the active population. While the unemployment rate is still nearly half the national average, compared to September 2000, the jobless total was up by 11 per cent with the biggest losers being the service sector; a 7.15 per cent increase in redundancies in September alone and construction which saw 11.42 per cent of the work force laid off. Now is not the time for companies to start cutting back on staff and union leaders asked Balearic President Francesc Antich only last week to help in their mission to ensure that businesses do not start using the international crisis as an excuse to reduce operating costs.