THE airport strikes at Spanish airports planned for April, May, June, July and August will go ahead unless Central Government confirms there will be no job losses as a result of privatisation plans, the Workers Commission (CCOO) representatives in the Spanish National Airports Authority (AENA) confirmed yesterday.

Main national unions, the CCOO, USO, and the General Workers Union (UGT), have already announced 22 dates on which they intend to hold industrial action at airports around the country, including the Balearic Islands.

These are in April: 20, 21, 24, 25 and 30; in May: 2, 14, 15, 19 and 20; in June: 13, 23 and 30; in July: 1, 2, 3, 4, 15 and 31; and August: 1, 15 and 21.

Defending the strikers' position yesterday, Workers Commission representative in AENA Jose Luis Garcia said that the general public should have an interest in backing the strike as well because privatisation plans will also mean an increase in airport taxes and a consequent rise in the price of air tickets. “Central Government already has it in mind to raise airport taxes by 25 percent,” he said, adding that as sectors of the airport infrastructure will be in private hands. “There will be less public investment and that could jeopardise safety,” Garcia claimed.

Meanwhile, Spanish Airports Authority Director Javier Marin said that AENA is prepared to negotiate on every issue that is “legally viable” as long as the Unions do not want to restrict the needs and growth of the aircraft industry over the coming years or jeopardise its competitivity.

Following yesterday morning's meeting between workers' representatives and AENA management, Marin insisted that the rights of each and every worker employed by the Airports Authority is guaranteed but admitted that the problem is to transfer these assurances of a collective bargaining systems to the companies that will be running part of the airport infrastructure in the future.

Marin said that AENA would continue to negotiate, not just after yesterday's meeting but on an ongoing basis until an agreement is reached. He claimed that there was a basis on which such accords could be founded but allowances had to be made for the fact that AENA was now trying to modernise its operations 20 years after it was set up.

The Director confirmed that all possible solutions were being looked at to avoid industrial action that would seriously damage the Spanish economy and set the airline industry back so soon after it was starting to show signs of recovery. He said that the fallout from the strike would also send negative signals to key client markets of Spain's tourist industry and discourage passengers from feeling confident about relying on Spanish air services. “AENA management want to see this strike called off at the earliest possible moment,” he reiterated. “We are completely united in our desire to bring the conflict to a close.” Asked by the Unions where the President of AENA was at a time of such crisis, Marin said that he was following the negotiations closely but it was not usual for him to attend meetings “unless necessary.” Marin claimed that the restructuring of Spain's airports which Central Government has in mind not only guarantees efficient operating standards but actually reenforces them.