CENTRAL Government's Public Works Minister Jose Blanco said yesterday that he could see that the Unions representing airport workers and the Spanish National Airports Authority (AENA) were really trying to find a solution to the threat of industrial action prompted by airport services privatisation plans.

Speaking at a railway development project in the Basque country accompanied by regional leader Patxi Lopez, Blanco said that it was evident by the proposals that were being made and the documentation which was being exchanged by the negotiating teams that both sides had the will to halt the 22 days of strikes.

Although stoppages have been scheduled to take place on specific dates in April through to August, Blanco said that there was still room for dialogue. AENA, he claimed, could remain a public company but farm out some airport services to the private sector, most importantly - but not exclusively - at Barajas airport in Madrid and at El Prat in Barcelona, without workers losing their rights. The Minister said that he felt convinced that it was quite possible for workers to remain in their present jobs and have the rights they currently enjoy transferred, even though they would be on the payroll of a private company. “There's no reason why there should be major disruption to employment,” said Blanco.

Blanco was keen to give assurances that the ministry and AENA negotiating teams are doing everything they possibly can over the next few hours to turn just such an agreement into a reality. The Minister was satisfied that since the first meeting between Union representatives and AENA management which had taken place last Wednesday, a great deal had been achieved.

He said that from the initial stages of making proposals and the tentative exchange of documentation to back up the willingness to reach agreement, the negotiating team is now coming up with different formulas to provide the Unions with the guarantees they want over stability of employment, pay and working conditions.

Blanco said that although the talks were still at an intermediary stage, both management and Unions have been working “positively” together to reach a satisfactory conclusion, adding that his ministry was willing to do all that was necessary to set the seal on a solution.