Balearic airports would be affected by a strike at the Barcelona control centre.

21-04-2018Patricia Lozano

The threat of possible strikes at the air-traffic control centre in Barcelona that would coincide with the start of summer is causing some unease within the tourism industry and Balearic government circles. The Usca union, as reported in the Bulletin yesterday, has announced 89% support for strike action in protest at overwork and lack of rest caused by staff shortages at the centre. Flights in and out of the Balearics are controlled from this centre, as are flights along the eastern coast of Spain.

Enaire, the Spanish government company which is responsible for air navigation, has said that it is totally prepared to immediately negotiate with the controllers. It adds that, as from the start of August, there will be 58 more controllers at three airports in Catalonia - Barcelona, Gerona and Reus - although the threatened strike does appear to be more an issue with the control centre rather than airport control towers.

If there are strikes, the first - for 24 hours - would be on 20 June. Before this, there is the more immediate threat of strikes by Vueling pilots. The Sepla pilots union has called these for 25 and 26 April and 4 and 5 May. They are essentially to do with pilot pay and working conditions. The airline, as it stated the week before last, has accused the union of not wanting to negotiate on pay, only on how planned growth affects pilots. It also said that up to 200 new pilots are being taken on this year.

Concern at the industrial action by pilots has led the president of the Balearics travel agencies association, Antoni Abrines, to call for a meeting between Vueling management and the Balearic transport ministry. The director-general of ports and airports, Xavier Ramis, is worried that the tourism season is being threatened, especially by the air-traffic controllers, so it intends getting involved in trying to gain agreements.


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Richard / Hace about 1 year

Totally agree Steve but. As I have said before in a different context, Spanish journalism does not have a campaigning tradition (probably thanks to an enduring hangover from Franco days) plus the unions tend to get negative press generally. I speak as a former gamekeeper not poacher. I used to battle more awkward unions here than the ATC guys. In those cases the companies were usually trying to do the right thing and preserve long term employment. This case is very different and the libel and other laws here are making the ATC guys reticent to speak out. So again, you are right, but the reality of the situation precludes the kind of action you are talking about.


Steve Riches / Hace about 1 year

If the Spanish Controllers concern is safety not money then I suggest they know, from their workload, what they are talking about. I am surprised their union is not already taking the moral high ground immediately with a widespread advertising campaign and a concerted effort to do media interviews (not just in Spain but on flight originating countries) to hammer home their safety worries. One in-air collision or runway crunch is all it'll take to destroy public confidence and hammer the tourist market. Let's see some good journalism to bring the perceived problem fully into the public eye.


Richard / Hace about 1 year

Sorry Freddy, you are totally wrong. Both I and another poster know ATC people. I assure you that the starting salaries are less than 100k and max 200 for an experienced controller. It used to be more, but not now. Yes, a very good salary, but IMHO fine for such a stressful job, keeping YOU safe. As for your comment on unions blocking new simply don’t know what you are talking about. After a lifetime in aviation I can tell you all that these general public `experts’ on all matters to do with flying just set our teeth on edge. We even find the so-called experts paraded on Sky TV Etc. after accidents annoying. They seldom get it right. Aviation is a highly technical business run by very dedicated people for whom safety is paramount. If you don’t know the business, stop speculating and just be glad that you are in the hands of largely honorouble people.


S. / Hace about 1 year

That is my Holidays cancelled. The ATC Controllers should not be in such a stressful state of working. An urgent inquiry is of paramount need ,to resolve their problems. The French could stop in sympathy . I do not want to spend hours in the Airport ever again. Once it was for 12 Hours overnight, when the French Grounded Europe. Never again !!!.


Freddy / Hace about 1 year

Here we go again. I was told with bonuses some of these air traffic controllers are now earning €1 million a year.

The UNIONS control and I am sure they block new persons being trained. This happens in our NHS system, the Unions block new training posts, hence we have shortages of nurses and doctors etc.


Richard / Hace about 1 year

Andrew, thanks for the post and glad you agree. Spanish airspace is now - in controller parlance - bandit territory. Anyone thinking of marking our posts should be supportive of these brave people who work ATC and perhaps a little more worried next time you are approaching PMI. There’s simply not enough investment in controllers and I will reveal one more detail...there are people working PMI with less than a month’s training. So I for one support the strikes.


Andrew Rauch / Hace about 1 year

I too have friends who are controllers and the stories they tell are frightening indeed. They constantly work at capacity of well above the normal and it is scary to hear them say that an accident is not a case of if but when under the current conditions.


Richard / Hace about 1 year

Henry, before you start on this one, let me clue you in, as an ex aviation executive and close friend of a PMI controller. This is NOT repeat NOT about pay. Sure, I agree that most Summer strikes, particularly by the French, are a major pain...the French though usually strike over pay. The Spanish are well paid and they know it. What they are genuinely concerned about is safety. My friend is handling 800+ movements A DAY. He says the safety margins at PMI are now wafer thin. Would you want dead people on your conscience because you were over-worked and stressed because of a lack of experienced controllers? I won’t tell you the rest but suffice it to say these guys are worried sick, and many controllers are on board with minimal training. So before you all moan, once again, this a safety protest, not a pay protest.


Henry James / Hace about 1 year

Here we go again with the usual round of summer strikes by the air traffic controllers,taxi drivers,baggage handlers et al.