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Spain May Use Military Air Traffic Officers to combat civilian action

Thu 22th Jul 2010

Spain may use military air traffic controllers to cover shifts at the country's airports under what it terms "exceptional situations", development Minister Jose Blanco said today in an interview with radio station Cadena Ser.

"Training military personal would be very quick and they could easily stand in for air traffic controllers who are off sick" Blanco said during the interview.

Spain's social security services are investigating whether the 32 percent of civil air traffic controllers in Barcelona who are on sick leave today are genuinely ill, or whether they are performing an unofficial strike, Blanco said.

Spain, battling to reduce the euro region's third-largest budget deficit, cut traffic controllers' average annual pay and reduced their overtime allowance in February to help stop losses at the national airport operator Aeropuertos Espanoles y Navegacion Aerea SA before a possible share sale.

"If claims are false then they are breaking the law, which means we can take legal action that may result in them losing their jobs" Blanco said.

USCA, the union for Spanish air controllers, denies that its members are on an unofficial strike in order to put pressure on Aena, as the airport operator is known, ahead of negotiations regarding working conditions, the association said in a statement posted on its website.

A spokeswoman for USCA who declined to be identified by name said that the government's cuts mean that air controllers are being forced to work longer hours with fewer technical resources which has led to stress and illness among staff.

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