THE Spanish National Airports Authority (AENA) confirmed yesterday that during the wildcat air traffic controllers' strike of last Friday and Saturday, 71 staff at Balearic airports abandoned their posts. AENA has also accused Camilo Cela, the President of the Controllers' Union USCA, of deliberate deceit.
According to AENA at 5pm on Friday 3rd December, Cela spoke at a press conference in which he gave assurances that neither he nor his members were going to take industrial action against a law passed by Central Government guaranteeing a continuous air service to the public.
Right at the time Cela was speaking, claimed AENA, 440 air traffic controllers, 71 of them in the Balearics, simultaneously got up, declared they weren't prepared to go on working, and abandoned their posts.
Faced with an all-out strike, and in order to guarantee the safety of air traffic, AENA had to gradually reduce activity in the control towers and as a consequence in flight movements, until there was a complete shutdown of air space after all controllers had left their work. AENA's compilation of the sequence of events shows that in the afternoon of 3rd December, 262 controllers throughout the country's airports left their posts (154 during the day and 108 on the night shift), while 178 abandoned them on Saturday 4th December - 9 during the day and 169 at night.
At Barajas airport in Madrid, said AENA, 175 controllers walked out over the period of Friday afternoon into Saturday.
Elsewhere around the country, 56 controllers joined the wildcat strike in Andalucia, 10 in Valencia, 60 in Catalonia, 9 in Galicia, 71 in the Balearics, 47 in the Canary Islands, one in La Rioja and 8 in Asturias.
AENA meanwhile has again pointed its finger at USCA President Camilo Cela, further accusing him of trying to deceive the public. Cela apparently denied yesterday that the massive abandonment of work stations by the air traffic controllers was the reason for the shutdown of the air space.
According to AENA, the declaration by Cela and USCA members is nothing other than a desperate attempt to elude taking responsibility for their actions. The unannounced industrial action, said AENA, trampled over the rights of fare-paying passengers. It would seem, said AENA, that the controllers are not satisfied with having caused misery for hundreds of thousands of travellers at the start of the early December holiday. They are now trying to delude the public further by saying that not one single air traffic controller abandoned his or her post on Friday 3rd December and that it was the Airport Authority itself which had unnecessarily called for the closure of Spanish air space. AENA was referring to specific claims made by USCA spokesmen Cesar Cabo and Daniel Zamit who had stated that the controllers were not responsible for the closure of Spanish airports and air space.
The Airport Authority strongly recommended to the union that it was wasting its time trying to feed the public false information.