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TRAVEL CHAOS IN SPAIN

Spanish government to send Civil Guard to man airport security checks

Move comes after striking staff at Barcelona’s El Prat reject latest proposal

Santiago de Compostela / Madrid / Barcelona
Huelga en el aeropuerto de El Prat
A meeting of Eulen Security workers from El Prat, in Barcelona.

The partial strikes by security staff at Barcelona’s El Prat airport this week that have led to long delays for passengers are now threatening to spread to other airports throughout Spain.

Criticizing what they call increasingly precarious pay and conditions at the network of airports run by Spanish airport authority AENA, Spain’s main labor unions say the situation is now a “powder keg.” The UGT labor union on Thursday called for partial strikes by security staff from August 20 at the northwestern regional airports of A Coruña and Santiago de Compestela, in Galicia.

Labor unions blame AENA for subcontracting out security at its airports to the lowest bidder

Meanwhile, the Spanish government said on Thursday that it would “take all necessary measures” to guarantee “security and public order” at El Prat to mitigate the impact of the continued strike action there. Public Works Minister Íñigo de la Serna announced on Friday that the government would be sending the Civil Guard to El Prat airport in order to man the security scanners.

Passengers on Friday morning were forced to wait in line for up to an hour at the Barcelona airport due to the stoppages by security staff.

Earlier this summer, a number of last-minute agreements managed to avoid stoppages at Madrid’s Barajas and Ibiza airports. But industrial action at El Prat over the last week now looks set to spread to other airports.

Labor unions blame AENA for subcontracting out security at its airports to the lowest bidder. The security staff at El Prat who have staged partial stoppages this week, along with a de facto go slow, are employed by Eulen, which won the contract to handle security controls at El Prat last year.

“The reality is that situation is a powder keg that could easily spread. Workers are sick and tired of putting up with a sector that is increasingly precarious,” said Diego Barragán of the Workers’ Commissions union (CCOO).

Public Works minister Íñigo de la Serna during a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Public Works minister Íñigo de la Serna during a press conference on Thursday afternoon. EFE

On Thursday, security staff at Barcelona’s El Prat airport rejected a solution to their dispute over pay and conditions proposed by the regional government of Catalonia.

Employees of Eulen voted on a deal that was accepted both by Eulen and AENA, the Spanish airports authority.

The offer included a significant increase in personnel, including adding a fifth guard in every security line. It also raised the salary increase to an average of 11%, which comes to a raise of up to €200 per month. So far, the company had only offered €150, with the workers committee asking for €350.

Negotiations will now continue: there will be partial stoppages over the weekend, and from Monday, unless a solution is found, an indefinite strike will be called.

The dispute could spread to other areas that are subcontracted out, such as cleaning services

Eulen-employed security staff voted for a €250 salary rise and for 15 salary payments over the course of the year. Union representatives blame AENA for awarding the contract to manage security controls at El Prat to Eulen last year, which had formerly been run by security firm Prosegur. New staff start on a monthly wage of €800, while workers with the highest seniority earn €1,100. The regional government’s deal would have seen workers earn up to €200 extra a month, in 12 payments a year.

Security staff at A Coruña who are employed by Eulen are demanding a pay increase and an end to extending the afternoon shift. In Santiago, where staff are employed by Prosegur, the call is for a minimum six-hour payment for staff working shorter shifts.

At Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas Airport, some members of the security staff have set up their own association, and have said they will call stoppages. The dispute could spread to other areas that are subcontracted out, such as cleaning services.

AENA itself also faces the possibility of strike action, with labor unions threatening 24-hour stoppages at airports throughout the country from September 15 if management does not start talks on improving pay and conditions before August 16.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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