Passengers at El Prat Airport affected by industrial action at the control centre in 2010. | Efe


The threatened strike by air-traffic controllers at the Barcelona Control Centre has been called off for now. The first stoppage had been scheduled for 20 June. Negotiations earlier this week with the national government-owned Enaire company, which is responsible for air navigation, are said to have led to a closing of the gap between the controllers' representatives and the company, but as significant for the decision to call off the strike has been the change of government.

The controllers are now going to give the ministry of development, which is responsible for Enaire, at least a two-week extension to any threatened action in the hope that there can be a definitive and positive agreement. Discussions will be on hold as they will have to involve the new secretary of state for infrastructure.

Raúl Tobaruela, the spokesperson for personnel at the control centre, says that they are looking forward to a "significant gesture" being made by the new government. But he adds that if there is no concrete and specific offer that will ensure controllers have adequate time off, the strike could still happen. Were it to, the first stoppage would be some time in July.

The industrial action is not about pay but about understaffing. The demand is for ninety new controllers to be taken on and added to the existing 289, who are overstretched and are concerned about the potential safety risks because of overwork and lack of rest. The action would only affect the control centre and not control towers, but the control centre is crucial because it supervises the whole of the Mediterranean east coast of Spain and the Balearics.