Spanish military breaks air traffic controllers' strike

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Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 4 2010 01:01
Spanish military breaks air traffic controllers' strike

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11913878

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sabot
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Dec 4 2010 10:49

Who r the controllers organized with? CCOO? UGT?

Beltov
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Dec 4 2010 12:07

BBC News reports that a 'state of alert' has been declared in Spain,

Quote:
The Spanish government has declared a state of alert after a strike by air traffic controllers grounded flights, stranding thousands of travellers.

The measure will allow widldcat strikers to be charged with a crime under the military penal code.

About half of the controllers showed for their shift on Saturday morning but most refused to work, in a dispute over hours and conditions.

National carrier Iberia has cancelled all flights until 0500 GMT on Sunday.

There are huge crowds of passengers at Spain's airports, many hoping to get away at the start of a national holiday, many of them frustrated and angry, says the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Madrid.

The army was called in to take charge of the country's air space on Friday, but cannot direct air traffic.

Announcing the state of alert, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the air traffic controllers were trying to protect "unacceptable privileges".

Spain is engaged in a big austerity drive to cut its budget deficit...

The controllers' unsanctioned action began Friday afternoon in Madrid, with staff calling in sick.

It spread across the nation, forcing travellers to find last-minute hotel rooms or sleep on airport floors. Some passengers were taken by coach to their destinations.

The controllers were already involved in a dispute about their working hours, but were further angered by austerity measures passed by the government on Friday which would partially privatise AENA.

"We have reached our limit mentally with the new decree approved this morning obliging us to work more hours," said Jorge Ontiveros, a spokesman for the Syndicate Union of Air Controllers.

"We took the decision individually, which then spread to other colleagues who stopped work because they cannot carry on like this. In this situation we cannot control planes."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11918008

Mark.
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Dec 4 2010 13:03
sabot wrote:
Who r the controllers organized with? CCOO? UGT?

Mostly with the independent Unión Sindical de Controladores Aéreos (USCA) which 'represents over 97 per cent of workers in the sector'.

There's also CGT/Aena but I think they may represent other workers in the same organisation rather than air traffic controllers.

Part of the background to this is the proposed privatisation of AENA, the Agencia Española de Navegación Aérea.

Info from this alasbarricadas thread - all links in Spanish.

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Machine translation of CGT/Aena press release:

Quote:
PRESS RELEASE OF THE STATE UNION SECTION CGT / Aena
The Minister Blanco causes chaos in the Spanish airspace
At stake is the future employment and work for all workers Aena. This is not a wage claim, but a provocation of the Minister to conceal behind the conflict with the drivers Aena selling price and friendly company of a friend.
The Socialist prime minister has faced down all the people before the interests and market pressures, bankers, entrepreneurs, and its latest decision to privatize Aena by Royal Decree and conditions imposed by Decree Law collective work to control illegal against the right to collective bargaining and workers of the statute itself, has led to the closure of airspace.
We understand that, once again, mr.Blanco is trying to overlap the looting that involves private gift to friendly hands of Spanish airports blaming a group with which it has refused to negotiate, which have been imposed by decree a conference that, ultimately, have proved insufficient to cover the needs of real jobs, we can not ignore that, regardless of today's outage, air traffic control had also stalled to meet the drivers in December, the day set in the White Act .
The privatization of Aena will subrogation of employees to a corporation, losing the civil servant status and job security. Entry criteria will benefit business, pure and simple, against the current security, quality of passenger service and advocacy. That is what is behind this whole process, not the defense of wage claims, which do not exist.
Aena is a public company with more than 12.000 employees, among which are support groups for passengers and airlines, maintenance personnel, flaggers, firefighters, operations personnel and airport management, administrative, medical and airport ats and graduates, among others, representing 80 % Aena personnel.
The head of this crisis is the Minister of Development, who has decided to legislate by decree, stealing the calm debate of the Parliament, and submitting to the dictates of capital markets and large companies that want to share the cake of Aena ,
decision has not even taken the field in this country. Aena is a public company very profitable and productive, that does not cost a penny to city, and that is very appealing for large construction companies, which have pressed, and truth, to achieve adequate regulation to their interests.
The responsibility lies with the government to attack again to rob people and give another public company with businesses in your environment to true price of a friend.
CGT / Aena conviction that we have arrived at this situation and deeply sympathizes with the citizens of this country who are suffering in their own flesh the incompetence of this government. We encourage all concerned to realize claims officers formats Aena. Also, a possible media lynching of workforce control, we make clear that the responsibility for the situation is the government, which has led the group of drivers working conditions imposed by decree absolutely irresponsible to hide by harassment and demolition of the drivers their own inefficiency in the computation of time, and the privatization of Aena and the looming labor dispute by the substitution of public employees to private companies Aena.
Finally, we appeal for sanity, for the Ministry to open a social dialogue on this vital sector, and to stop overlapping structural problems by seeking scapegoats.
Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 4 2010 13:44

Thanks for the link Mark...reading on ALB, apparently the military air traffic controllers are unable to fulfil the role of striking controllers cos they don't speak English, bizarrely enough.

The BBC claims that this action started as a mass sickie, and that now, many controllers are at their desks - as required by law - but refusing to work.

Valeriano Orobó...
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Dec 4 2010 18:59

This is a very, very sad sample of the way collective protest is gonna be dealt with in spain in the future.

The controllers have their own corporate union. Their work depends on aena which is a state agency. For many years they dealt with the government and were able to gain substantial wages increases due to their key position in air traffic. Because their collective agreement was pretty good (workers aristocracy?) the government has always refused to allow the number of controllers to increase. Therefore as the number of flights has risen remarkably over the years, they were force to work overtime on a daily basis. Since the last years in the meetings for the renewal of the collective agreement the government has been pushing trying to force a substantial worsening of their work conditions, for example, they've been forced to low their wages in a 40 % and recently through a order-in-council, to accept forced overtime and that the sick leaves are not payed (yes you have read right). These recent measures were imposed yesterday, on key dates (we have holidays right now and everybody wants to fly) as a means of provocation. The union called them to abandon their work posts (apparently without an official call to strike) and the government decreed state of alarm and ordered the army controllers in to carry on their task.

And what has been most of the working class reaction to this appalling abuse and violation of the collective agreement imposed on a workers collective? the most vicious rage against the civil controllers, calling them privileged and hoping the government will crush em and frire them. They are so utterly stupid, mean and envious that they are incapable to see they'll be next.

This moronic and despicable country is doomed.

Mark.
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Dec 4 2010 17:45
Quote:
The government confirmed a ruling that the maximum time worked by air traffic controllers was 1,670 hours a year but also clarified that this total did not include non-aeronautical work.

A spokesman for the Syndicate Union of Air Controllers said this meant time taken for paternity or sick leave would not count within the maximum working hours for air traffic controllers.

"We have reached our limit mentally with the new decree approved this morning obliging us to work more hours," spokesman Jorge Ontiveros said.

"We took the decision individually, which then spread to other colleagues who stopped work because they cannot carry on like this," he said.

As part of the new measures, the Spanish government also announced the sale of up to 49 percent of AENA, raising as much as nine billion euros, expanding earlier plans to sell only 30 percent.

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/5/20101204/twl-spanish-air-strike-over-but-many-str-3fd0ae9.html

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For anyone with Spanish this blog entry by an air traffic controller makes interesting reading.

Valeriano Orobó...
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Dec 4 2010 18:42

Thanks for the link, it's very useful

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flaneur
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Dec 4 2010 21:23

BBC saying they've gone back to work.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 4 2010 21:39

Yeah, from what I understand, under the state of emergency (or whatever it's termed), the military has come in and any worker who refuse work are threatened with military discipline.

I am glad to hear they are refusing work, even if they are back, can anyone offer further information?

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devoration1
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Dec 5 2010 02:42

Sounds like the Spanish equivalent to the American 'national emergency injunction' under the Taft-Hartley Act which lets the president call a strike illegal and enforce all manner of draconian revenge.

Plus this situation sounds a lot like the PATCO strike of August 1981:

Quote:
On August 3, 1981 the union declared a strike, seeking better working conditions, better pay and a 32-hour workweek. In doing so, the union violated a law {5 U.S.C. (Supp. III 1956) 118p.} that banned strikes by government unions. Ronald Reagan declared the PATCO strike a "peril to national safety" and ordered them back to work under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Only 1,300 of the nearly 13,000 controllers returned to work.[4] Subsequently, Reagan demanded those remaining on strike return to work within 48 hours, otherwise their jobs would be forfeited. At the same time Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis organized for replacements and started contingency plans. By prioritizing and cutting flights severely, and even adopting methods of air traffic management PATCO had previously lobbied for, the government was initially able to have 50% of flights available.[4]

On August 5, following the PATCO workers' refusal to return to work Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order,[6][7] and banned them from federal service for life (this ban was later rescinded by President Bill Clinton in 1993).[8] In the wake of the strike and mass firings the FAA was faced with the task of hiring and training enough controllers to replace those that had been fired, a hard problem to fix as at the time it took three years in normal conditions to train a new controller.[2] They were replaced initially with nonparticipating controllers, supervisors, staff personnel, some nonrated personnel, and in some cases by controllers transferred temporarily from other facilities. Some military controllers were also used until replacements could be trained. The FAA had initially claimed that staffing levels would be restored within two years; however, it would take closer to ten years before the overall staffing levels returned to normal.[2] PATCO was decertified on October 22, 1981.[9]

Some former striking controllers were allowed to reapply after 1986 and were rehired; they and their replacements are now represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which was organized in 1987 and had no connection with PATCO.

This leftist article on the strike (written after its 25th anniversary) is pretty good:

http://www.workers.org/2006/us/patco-0817/

Mark.
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Dec 5 2010 11:15

From the Guardian...

Quote:
The Spanish government declared a "state of alarm" yesterday for the first time in three decades, assuming sweeping powers that allowed the military to take control of the country's airspace and order Spain's striking air traffic controllers to work or face prison.

[…]

Up to 20,000 were trapped by the sudden closure of local airspace on Friday afternoon after Spain's air traffic controllers walked out in a dispute over working hours. Military law was applied from midday yesterday, allowing them to be arrested and charged if they did not return to work. Spain's military code allows sentences of up to two years for those who disobey an order to work from the defence ministry. "If they do not go to work, they will be committing a crime of disobedience according to the military penal code," the deputy prime minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, warned after an emergency cabinet meeting.

[…]

Zapatero has taken as a model Ronald Reagan's 1981 confrontation with American air controllers, when he also sent the military in and broke the union.

From the Telegraph...

Quote:
"I cannot talk to you properly now," an air traffic controller at Madrid's Barajas Airport told The Sunday Telegraph in a half whisper, his voice quavering on his mobile.

"There are civil guards here, with pistols. If we don't start work now, we will be arrested.

"The first flights should start at 3pm (2pm UK) and that should be for the whole of Spain. All my colleagues have been forced to return to work or face the consequences."

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fingers malone
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Dec 5 2010 11:20

They went to the houses of people who had phoned in sick and forced them to have medical exams.

gypsy
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Dec 5 2010 11:56
fingers malone wrote:
They went to the houses of people who had phoned in sick and forced them to have medical exams.

Sounds like something from Franco's time.

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fingers malone
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Dec 5 2010 12:09

The worst thing is, like Val says, most working class people hate the air traffic controllers. There were chants against them by the people waiting in the airports, "hijos de putas" and so on.

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 5 2010 12:20

I think Vale's negativity needs to be placed in context. There's always a concerted anti-striker propaganda campaign everywhere, especially where airports are concerned. Spain's not unique for this, although chanting in the airport is a bit extreme... wink

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 5 2010 13:24
gypsytimetraveller wrote:
fingers malone wrote:
They went to the houses of people who had phoned in sick and forced them to have medical exams.

Sounds like something from Franco's time.

Apparently this is the first 'state of alarm' since Franco. Proper fucking fascist-era tactics to break a strike...

The news claims the controllers make 300,000 pounds a year. This sounds suspect to me. Anyone know the real figures?

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 5 2010 13:43

The blogger Mark linked to claims she doesn't make "even half" of that figure...

Mark.
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Dec 5 2010 19:47

...actually she says, "I don't make 200,000 euros a year, however much the minister says so. Not that and not half of it."

She makes it pretty clear that the issue for her is about worsening hours and conditions rather than money:

"Before I was working 140 hours a month and I've never done overtime. Do you think it makes me happy to work like an animal? I don't give a toss about the money, I need some time to sleep, to go out, to see my family. Working 200 hours a month you can only work and sleep, and sleep's out of the question with the shifts. That's the life of a worm and it doesn't interest me. In fact if this doesn't change I'm inclined to leave the job."

(rough translation)

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Valeriano Orobón Fernández wrote:
Because their collective agreement was pretty good (workers aristocracy?) the government has always refused to allow the number of controllers to increase. Therefore as the number of flights has risen remarkably over the years, they were force to work overtime on a daily basis. Since the last years in the meetings for the renewal of the collective agreement the government has been pushing trying to force a substantial worsening of their work conditions, for example, they've been forced to low their wages in a 40 % and recently through a order-in-council, to accept forced overtime and that the sick leaves are not payed (yes you have read right). These recent measures were imposed yesterday, on key dates (we have holidays right now and everybody wants to fly) as a means of provocation.
Mark.
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Dec 5 2010 20:33

.

Mark.
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Dec 5 2010 20:32

Some more links in Spanish:

Updated version of the statement from CGT/Aena

Statement from CGT nationally

Statement from delegates to the CNT conference

Comments by a Spanish blogger stranded at Stansted...

...and an English translation of a sort here

akai
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Dec 5 2010 20:34

A quick translation of the CNT Statement:
http://internationalworkersassociation.blogspot.com/2010/12/cnt-communique-against-militarization.html

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OliverTwister
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Dec 10 2010 22:40
CNT.es wrote:
Delegates to the Tenth Congress of the National Confederation of Labour (CNT), which is being held in Cordoba from the 4- 8 of December, show our concern about the decree proclaimed by the government establishing constitutional legal concept of the State of Emergency. This means removing certain civil rights in favor of the military and putting civilian workers in their service using threats of bayonets and imprisonment. These authoritarian measures that are taken to address a labour dispute, regardless of corporatism on this occasion, through Francist laws that use the army as a tool against labor disputes, clearly show the hidden face of this bourgeois and fascist constitution.

Opening the way to confront a labor problem by resorting to the military reveals the true face of a government that, like all others, does not hesitate to take off its democratic mask when it is unable to control a situation, showing its inability and ineptitude, while leaving it crystal clear which side the state and its laws is on: the side of the employers.

To this we show our most rebellious revulsion against the militarization of public services, which means accepting that industrial disputes be suppressed by the army and this only can be called DICTATORSHIP.