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Spain air traffic controllers call off strike plans

Source: Reuters - Wed 11th Aug 2010

Spain's air traffic controllers on Tuesday called off this month's threatened strike, bringing relief to the world's third most popular tourist destination as it limps out of recession.

USCA, the union which represents the air traffic controllers, said it would return to negotiations with Spain's airport authority AENA over pay and working conditions, rather than stage the strike during the busy summer tourist season.

"The union understands the concerns of the tourism sector and passengers," UNSCA spokesman Cesar Cabo told reporters.

Talks with AENA broke down last week and tourism and airline officials have already complained that the uncertainty is hurting business as travellers cancel or delay their trips.

"We would have liked the decision to be definitive and not just for the month of August," said Juan Ignacio Lema, chairman of AENA, in a statement.

However, he said AENA was pleased with the decision and would resume talks with USCA on Wednesday with the aim of reaching an agreement "as soon as possible."

Industrial action would have provoked an independent arbitration process, something the controllers were keen to avoid as they feared it would have lead to an unfavourable ruling against them.

Air traffic controllers' relatively high salaries and short working hours have raised hackles in the Spanish media as the country applies painful public sector pay cuts to ease its deficit and allay sovereign debt solvency concerns.

Tourism accounts for around 11 percent of Spain's gross domestic product.

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