Airspace reopens as minister says strikers must "face justice"
Blanco intent on punishing those responsible for wildcat stoppage chaos as PP demands minister's head
The government's decision to call a "state of alert" quashed a covert strike by air traffic controllers on Saturday, but Public Works Minister José Blanco on Sunday warned "now is the time for justice."
The coordinated absenteeism of some 70 percent of controllers on Friday following the announcement of the partial privatization of AENA paralyzed Spain's airspace ahead of a five-day holiday and left hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded.
At least 442 of those that abandoned their posts claiming medical incapacity are to face disciplinary action from the AENA airports authority, which may constitute a fine or dismissal, in addition to possible prosecution. "The majority claimed they were not able to work but would not undergo a medical examination," Blanco said. Judicial sources added some controllers may be investigated for falsifying medical certificates, in addition to charges of disobeying Military Law.
Daniel Zamit, spokesman for the USCA controllers' union, said the covert action was caused by the "straw that broke the camel's back." "The government always makes decrees on key dates and this time it has achieved what it wanted. When people found out they would have to relinquish days they were owed to work in December, they lost their temper. Now we have practically no working rights."
The Popular Party (PP) said it would back measures to re-establish air traffic control but called for Blanco's head nonetheless after the minister accused the opposition party of colluding with controllers. "Blanco is a part-time minister and keeps proving his incompetence. An accusation of this kind should cause his immediate resignation or firing," said PP deputy Rafael Hernando.