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Why Iberia ground staff are striking in Barcelona but not Madrid

After two days of stoppages, unions have given Spain's flag carrier airline until Friday to come up with proposal


30 July 2019 12:55 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Whether it's air traffic controllers, pilots or baggage handlers, strikes at airports are common in the busy summer period, and this year in Barcelona airport Iberia ground staff are threatening further industrial action in August. But why in Barcelona and not Madrid?

Last Saturday and Sunday, Barcelona airport experienced two days of stoppages by the ground staff of Spain's flag carrier airline, which along with the complications of a summer storm on Saturday, led to numerous flights being canceled and delayed.

The low-cost Vueling airline was forced to cancel 48 flights on Saturday and another 64 on Sunday, affecting a total of over 15,000 passengers. Also affected were Iberia, British Airways and Turkish Airlines, which between them had to cancel 31 flights.

The Iberia ground staff are on strike to protest staffing levels, which they say are not keeping pace with the growth of activity at the airport, a lack of permanent contracts, and the "indiscriminate" use of mandatory overtime by Iberia. 

With Barcelona airport growing at a rate of 5%, and last year exceeding the 50-million passenger mark, the workers complain there is not enough staff to cover the increased activity, as the Iberia ground staff provide a service for 27 companies.

Barcelona and Madrid

But that begs the question of why Iberia ground staff are not also striking in Madrid's Barajas airport. According to the unions, despite Barcelona dealing with a similar number of passengers, Madrid has 1,500 extra workers.

The workload in Barcelona is unsustainable, according to the unions, and they point out that the ground staff in Barcelona had to do 3,500 hours of mandatory overtime last year, while the equivalent staff in Madrid did just 700 hours.

Meanwhile, the territory minister, Damià Calvet, blames Iberia for provoking the strike by not fulfilling its commitments to Barcelona airport, and he called the difference between how the company handles its staff in Madrid compared to Barcelona "brutal and alarming."

Despite a number of meetings between union and company representatives, no agreement has so far been reached, and on Monday, the workers voted to give Iberia until Friday August 2 to come up with a proposal or they will take further industrial action.


  • Iberia ground staff of Barcelona airport on strike in July, 2019. (Photo: Pol Solà)

  • Iberia ground staff of Barcelona airport on strike in July, 2019. (Photo: Pol Solà)