Security staff at Barcelona's airport call new strike
Holidaymakers and travelers should brace for new long queues, as actions are planned for every Friday starting September 8
This summer's scenes of chaos at Barcelona airport with some holidaymakers having to wait for up to three hours to go through security controls, could happen again. Security staff at the Catalan capital's airport are calling new actions for every Friday beginning September 8. They will stage hour-long strikes between 10.30 and 11.30 and between 18.30 and 19.30. Workers are protesting the low pay and poor working conditions imposed by Eulen, the company in charge of security. Staff suspended the strike after the Barcelona terrorist attacks but are now back to action as they consider that their demands have not been met. They also urge Eulen to halt any firings and complained that two people have already been dismissed following the strikes in August.
A chaotic conflict
The conflict between security workers and their employee, Eulen, peaked in mid-August, when holidaymakers had to wait between two and three hours at security controls. Like most airports in Spain, Barcelona's is publicly managed by state-controlled AENA, which in turn decided to outsource security to Eulen.
At the beginning, AENA rejected participating in the strike negotiations on the grounds that it was an internal Eulen matter but said that it was still working on lowering the wait time for passengers at security checkpoints.
The Catalan government called the first mediation meeting with Eulen and its employees on the second day of chaos, on July 25. However, mediation was unsuccessful: in mid-August, workers rejected a proposed offer, which included a €200-monthly pay rise. They asked for at least a €250 rise. By then, AENA joined the discussions, but workers called an indefinite strike.
Amid the conflict, the Spanish government, in charge of airport management, decided to send Guardia Civil agents to the security checkpoints to cover for security personnel on strike. The decision, widely criticized by workers, reduced waiting times for travelers to only around 10 minutes.
Workers will stage hour-long strikes between 10.30 and 11.30 and between 18.30 and 19.30
The Spanish government finally decided to appoint a forced mediator, Marcos Peña, who in the next few days should offer a solution that all parties are obliged to follow. Peña admitted that "no one will be happy" with it, adding that he will aim at "limiting damage".
Workers have so far rejected this forced mediation. In fact, they have promised to bring the procedure to court, arguing that it is "illegal and abusive". The strike committee advisor, Juan Carlos Giménez, said that if the solution proposed by Peña does not contemplate an end to firings and sanctions, the strike "will go ahead and could even be increased to more than one day or more than one hour." "The last word belongs to the workers," he added.
Conflict between Catalonia and Spain
The labor conflict in the airport also spread to the political arena, leading to a clash between the Spanish and Catalan executives. Barcelona’s airport is a key infrastructure in Catalonia, and is the second biggest airport in Spain. Barcelona's mayor, Ada Colau, admitted that a more decentralized management of the airport would allow for better management. Political pro-independence groups as well as the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) claimed that the Spanish government and AENA’s passivity in this situation was a way of making Barcelona and Catalonia look bad in the run up to the referendum on independence, set for October 1. Other airports in Spain have not seen similar labor conflicts, although Barcelona's situation in summer, with a huge increase in travelers due to the holidays, does not have many parallels.