THE Majorcan Hoteliers' Federation (FEHM) said yesterday that Spanish National Airports Authority (AENA) workers who have called for industrial action over the Easter holiday, should “take responsibility” for losses incurred by the tourism industry as a result of their actions.

According to the FEHM, the announcement of the strikes over Easter has unsurprisingly generated considerable alarm amongst key client markets of the Balearic Islands and in the travel agency sector.

The travel industry, said the FEHM, are well aware of the chaos which is going to ensue if the strikes go ahead. The action could seriously prejudice the income of tourist businesses because there are likely to be wholesale cancellations of reservations already made for the Easter period. The FEHM said that the airport workers and unions representing them should be made to take a long, hard look at the damage they are going to inflict, and called for meetings to try and negotiate a way out of the conflict.

The FEHM said that the chaos caused by the wildcat strike held by Spanish air traffic controllers at the start of December last year is still fresh in people's minds. Some hoteliers, the Federation claimed, have not yet recovered from that “brutal” incident and would not survive a second damaging strike at Easter. From an international standpoint, said the FEHM, further industrial action which inflicts economic hardship on the tourist industry would send out very “negative” signals about Spain being a safe and reliable holiday destination.

AENA workers are taking industrial action because the Airports Authority is planning to privatise some of its operations at airports around the country.

Meanwhile, the National Airports Authority said yesterday that it was perfectly willing to hold negotiations with the workers who want to strike at Easter. A spokesman added, however, that the unions do not have the right to exert such pressure because the Authority has made it clear that the rights of the workers are to be upheld. A general strike, said AENA, is therefore not warranted.

Responding to news of the Easter strike, Consumers in Action group “Facua” said that it acknowledged the industrial moves which were being made by the main unions, including the General Workers Union (UGT) and the Workers Commission (CCOO). Facua said it understood that the strike was against privatisation plans and that it was completely “legal”.

However, spokesman Ruben Sanchez insisted that the unions should respect minimum service requirements so that airport users and Easter holiday-makers were inconvenienced as little as possible. He said that airlines “had a duty” to announce in advance which flights were going to be cancelled or delayed so that customers had a chance to reclaim their money.