A cautious reaction was given yesterday by the Spanish Hoteliers Confederation (Cehat) to the news that a negotiated settlement had been reached between the management of the Spanish National Airports Authority (AENA) and unions representing thousands of ground support staff over partial privatisation plans.

Cehat General Secretary Ramon Estalella described the agreement, yet to be put to the vote, as “bitter sweet.” He said that the “sweet” part of the outcome was that it put an end to the problems the tourist industry was facing were the planned strikes to have gone ahead throughout this summer season. “It comes as a relief,” he said, making reference to the scaremongering over the industrial action in foreign press, “that tourists can now visit Spain without having to think of changing their plans.”

However, Estalella went on to claim that a “bitter” taste is still left in the mouth - despite the fact that the unions are likely to vote in favour of the agreement - because the conflict has been yet another example that the tourist industry is constantly being subject to blackmail. “One day the blackmailers are the ground staff, on another it's the controllers, and on other occasions it's the pilots,” he said.

Estalella put forward the suggestion that those people who are working in essential services such as “electricity, water and transport” should have their rights to strike restricted. He claimed that workers in these key areas of infrastructure did not have a right to bring all other activities to a halt in pursuit of their own personal ends. Although Estalella praised the Government for its most recent swift action in bringing the strike to a halt, he also urged that an agreement be established between Central Government and Unions so that the freedom to “blackmail the tourist industry on an indefinite basis” is curtailed.