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Spain airport strikes planned April - August

Source: Reuters - Tue 8th Mar 2011

Unions have called 22 days of strikes in Spanish airports over government privatisation plans, raising the spectre of travel disruption during the busy spring and summer season.

"We're not asking for better economic or labour conditions, we just want to keep our jobs," the three main unions representing the airport workers said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Spain said in December it wanted to partially privatise state airport operator AENA, which it says could be worth up to 30 billion euros, alongside its state lottery, as part of plans to reduce the national debt.

AENA's three main unions - Comisiones Obreras, Union General de Trabjadores and Union Sindical Obrera - said the strikes would take place between April and August, including Easter.

As part of the government's sell-off, private companies would take stakes of up to 49% in the country's airports and airport services' business, a sale that is likely to draw both national and foreign interest.

Wildcat air traffic controller strikes in early December stranded thousands of passengers, causing chaos at Spanish airports and prompting the government to bring in the army to take over air control.

Air traffic controllers struck a deal last month on pay and are not represented in large numbers by the striking unions, nor are pilots.

"The news comes a month and a half ahead of the strikes. What the unions want is to sit down at the negotiating table," said Joaquin Garcia-Romanillos, analyst at BPI in Madrid.

An AENA spokesman declined to comment on the unions' plans on Tuesday, but last month the operator's chairman, Juan Ignacio Lerma, said he would use all measures to avoid further strikes.

The first round of privatisations will be a batch of air traffic control towers, for which Spanish builder Ferrovial and UK air navigation service provider NATS have launched a joint bid, competing with a handful of other offers.

That sale will be followed by the privatisation of Spain's biggest airports, Madrid and Barcelona, due to be completed before the end of the first half of 2012.

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