By Humphrey Carter

SPANISH airport authority AENA employees dropped an absolute bombshell yesterday by announcing their intention to stage a nationwide strike over the Easter holidays.

Unions representing AENA staff have been threatening strike action in protest over central government's plans to sell off 49 percent of the country's airports, including Palma, and yesterday, Spain's three main unions said that industrial action is going to go ahead and that the Director General for Work in Madrid will be officially informed of the strikes on Tuesday, March 8.

The government is confident it will be able to talk the unions round but, if it fails, the strikes will begin on Easter Thursday and unions have warned that protest action could continue into the summer season unless the government backs down or is prepared to be more flexible over the part privatisation of the airports and provide more job guarantees.

There does appear to be a split between some of the regional union branches. Here in the Balearics, sources for the UGT, General Workers' Union, have said that they do not approve of strike action over the busy Easter holiday period. But, national union bosses will have the final decision, much to the surprise of the British travel industry.

Sources contacted by the Bulletin yesterday described industrial action at Easter as “suicide.” “Considering just how well bookings are going for Spain and the Balearics, up 12 and 20 percent respectively, this is like shooting the golden goose,” the Bulletin was told. “After the chaos caused by December's air traffic controllers' strike, this is the last thing Spain needs when the tourist industry really has turned around and pulled out of the recession. “We hope the government is as tough with AENA staff as it was with the air traffic controllers and cracks down hard on striking airport staff. “We will obviously have to start drawing up contingency plans, in case industrial action does go ahead and watch developments closely. “We understand that people are concerned about their jobs but strikes solve nothing. “It's another hard year for tourism with the North African crisis and now strikes in Spain which will cause our customers distress and aggravation. “April is going to be very busy in the Balearics but, when there's chaos, that is all the client remembers and will remember for a long time,” the source said.