By Humphrey Carter

NOT only is the Balearic business community and local government unhappy about central government's decision to begin part-privatising the country's airports, so too are the unions which announced industrial action over Christmas in protest against the sell off yesterday.

All three of the country's largest unions unanimously agreed on a wave of stoppages and strikes which are going to undoubtedly affect Christmas holiday travel at all of the country's airports and airport authority Aena's control centres.

Union bosses are going to meet again on December 9 to discuss and draw up the dates and times of the industrial action which could cause misery for tens of thousands of air passengers over the Christmas holiday period.

Union bosses said yesterday that they and their members strongly opposed the proposed part-privatisation of Spanish airports beginning with Madrid and Barcelona. “We consider it crazy to begin selling of the jewels of the crown,” said the spokesperson for the CC.OO workers' commission, Cesar Revuelta who added that the sell offs, announced as the government steps up efforts to slash costs and persuade markets it will not need a bailout, will lead to the closure of small regional airports and the loss of thousands of jobs.

Union leaders apologised for any inconvenience the protests will cause travellers but insisted that they have no choice but to take industrial, action if the Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, does not withdraw the plan.

The unions are also angry that they were not consulted about the proposal and not informed until Wednesday afternoon along with the rest of the country.

The Development Minister, Jose Blanco, was also accused of lying to politicians and the public that the government would never sell more than a 30 percent stake in the country's airports.

The government is being blamed for looking at the airports as cash cows in desperate times and not drawing up a viable and sensible plan for the public/private management of the country's airports.

The President of the Balearics, Francesc Antich, yesterday admitted that he is also disappointed by the model on which the part-privatisation is being based.

As the Bulletin reported yesterday, for years the regional government, with the full support of the local business community and the Chamber of Commerce, has been pushing for a greater role in the running of Palma airport but with local companies and agents being involved.

Antich stressed the strategic importance of Palma airport to the Balearics and that any shake up in its management has got to involve the local community so that it can best serve the region's specific interests.


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