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Ryanair to take legal action against Spanish unions

Source: Reuters - Mon 13th Dec 2010

Ryanair, Europe's largest low-cost carrier, said it would take legal action against Spanish unions over an air traffic control strike which forced the airline to cancel over 500 flights.

The strike by Spanish air traffic controllers earlier this month prompted the government to declare a state of emergency and disrupted the travel of hundreds of thousands of people on one of Spain's busiest holiday weekends.

"It is unacceptable that Spanish Air Traffic Controllers, some of whom earn almost 1 million euros (843, 000 pounds) per year, continue to engage in strikes, go-slows and work to rules, causing delays and misery for millions of European passengers without any financial ramifications," airline spokesman Stephen McNamara said in a statement on Monday.

"Ryanair will now take legal action against those responsible for the wildcat Air Traffic Control strikes which caused the cancellation of 500 Ryanair flights on the 3rd and 4th of December," he said.

The Irish airline called on the EU Commission to remove the right to strike from essential services such as air traffic control (ATC) and to sack any ATC staff who participate in illegal strikes.

"So far in 2010, Ryanair has been forced to cancel 2,500 flights and delay over 13,000 flights, disrupting over 2.5 million passengers, as a direct result of Belgian, French and Spanish ATC strikes and work to rules," the statement said.

The mass walkout by Spanish air traffic controllers, locked in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions with the state-run airport authority AENA, came hours after the government approved plans to sell off 49 percent of AENA.

The government also approved controls over the number of hours air traffic controllers can work per year.