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Spain's Iberia files legal action against strikers

Source: Reuters - Tue 3rd Apr 2012
Spain's Iberia files legal action against strikers

Spanish airline Iberia, part of International Airlines Group, has petitioned a court to ban strikes called by pilots and cabin crew during the next few months and to award compensation for strikes already held.

Pilots union SEPLA has called 30 days of strikes between April and July to protest against the start-up of low-cost carrier Iberia Express. They see the business as a threat to jobs and conditions, but company bosses say it is vital to increasing profitability.

In a statement on Monday, Iberia said it had filed a suit to Spain's High Court, asking the strikes to be declared abusive and illegal, saying they targeted peak travel periods around Easter Week and popular bank holidays.

'Such strikes have a huge cost for the airline and almost none for the striking pilots,' Iberia said in a statement.

It said damages were currently estimated at more than 3 million euros per day.

Pilots held 12 days of strikes between December and March. They briefly called off strike action in favour of mediation but the talks broke down.

Iberia pilots are planning strikes every Monday and Friday from April 9 to July 20.

Iberia has filed suits against SEPLA and against cabin crew union STAVLA, which it accuses of taking industrial action in solidarity with the pilots.

Pilots argue that the launch of Iberia Express contravenes deals struck when Iberia and British Airways merged to form International Consolidated Airlines Group.

They say Iberia plans to divert 40 planes from the main airline to the low-cost subsidiary, eliminating 8,000 jobs.

IAG and Iberia say starting the new airline is the only way to make the loss-making Spanish unit profitable.

European airlines are battling soaring fuel prices, weak demand from cash-strapped passengers and the burden of new taxes on air travel as well as fierce competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair.

Iberia Express is designed to complement Iberia's more profitable long-haul flights, flying to 17 national and European destinations including Dublin, Naples and Amsterdam. Iberia estimates it will attract 2.5 million passengers.

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