The 100 employees of the NASA monitoring station at Robledo de Chavela outside Madrid staged a strike Thursday to protest against the Spanish government’s decision to withhold their extra Christmas payment. The workers, who are NASA employees contracted through a Ministry of Defense subsidiary, argue that there is no basis for the decision as all costs relating to the base are covered directly by the American space agency.
“It’s an absurdity. We are not governed by the state budget,” said Juan Lobo, president of the workers’ council at the installation. “All of the station’s costs, from the waste paper baskets to the last screw, are defrayed by the US government.”
“Not only does the station cost no money, the state receives the administrative costs, which are eight percent,” Lobo added.
The Spanish government ordered the retention of the extra Christmas payment for all public employees last December. The employers’ representative said a letter had been sent to the tax agency asking for a report that reflects the peculiar status of the NASA base, but no reply had been received.
The Ministry of Defense said that the base, which has been in operation since the 1970s, would be staffed at 50 percent during the stoppages. Robledo de Chavela is the only NASA monitoring station in Europe and forms part of the Deep Space Network, which tracks all interstellar missions launched from earth, with Canberra and Goldstone, California.