By Humphrey Carter
THE Balearics does not need an airport handling strike on the eve of the start of the summer season, Tourism Minister Joan Flaquer said yesterday.
Airport ground staff are threatening to go on strike across the country on April 29, bringing all handling operations to a halt and crippling Spain's main airports.

Yesterday, Joan Flaquer said that “it would be ideal” if Spanish airport and air traffic control body AENA could somehow avoid the general strike going ahead.

On Wednesday, the UGT general worker's union called on the Spanish government to sign the new deal the union has put on the table.
The union wants to see working conditions significantly improved before the airport handling sector is fully privatised.
Flaquer said yesterday that ports and airports are the “first and last image” for holidaymakers and visitors coming to the Balearics: “industrial action like this damages the region's image and can have negative repercussions for the tourist industry. “I would like to see the conflict resolved before the April 29 dead line,” he said.
It is typical of unions to threaten industrial action in sectors related to tourism on the eve of the summer season.
Last week, the Balearic hotel sector called for an inflation-busting pay rise to help counterbalance the shorter summer season and the annual hikes in the cost of living.

Hotel owners have rejected the claim as “over the top” but the two main CCOO and UGT unions which represent thousands of hotel workers in the Balearics maintain the pay rise is fair.

Unions and management are to sit down and thrash out a pay deal at the end of this month, but, should talks collapse, industrial action has not been ruled out.

Both pay rises for hotel staff and improvements in working conditions for airport ground staff could have been discussed and agreed on over the winter - but threatening industrial action as the summer season is about to start gives the unions the upper hand.

Five years ago, the three Balearic airports were brought to a complete standstill and thrown into total chaos by a coach drivers strike which caused so much damage to the region's image overseas it took years to repair.

With holiday sales still rather slow and, after a poor winter and average Easter, a great deal of concern in resorts about this coming summer season, neither Flaquer nor the Balearic government wants any kind of incident which will upset the tourist industry and reverse the hard work which has been carried out over the past 12 months to boost flagging holiday markets.

Palma airport was the third busiest in Spain last year and a strike by ground staff will hit tens of thousands of travellers.

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