Guardia Civil officers take over departure gate checks as strike chaos continues
SECURITY gate workers at Barcelona's El Prat airport have been called to vote on a pay increase proposal tomorrow (Sunday) which falls short of their initial demands, but the government says this is its final offer and legal action will be taken if a vote against leads to the strike continuing.
Queues of up to four hours to get through to departures have already caused thousands of passengers to miss their flights and, as the matter is outside the control of their airlines, are not legally entitled to compensation.
It is thought that some holidaymakers have even missed flights they had to pay for after being unable to make their first trips.
Guardia Civil officers have now been brought in to operate security gate checks in order to cut the queues and allow travellers to get to departures on time for their flights and, today (Saturday), waiting times were cut to an average of 40 minutes to an hour.
Minister for public works Íñigo de la Serna says he 'will not let hundreds of thousands of people be inconvenienced by the stubbornness of the few'.
Already, the pay increase demands of workers for the security franchise company Eulen have insisted on an extra €250 a month payable 15 times a year.
Some Spanish companies and the public sector still pay 14 wages a year – a double pay packet in August and at Christmas – although it is rare for anyone to get 15 payments.
And most now give the standard 12 months.
De la Serna has offered an additional €200 a month paid each of the 12 months of the year, with no extras on top of existing bonuses.
And he has warned that if the vote due to take place tomorrow fails and the strike continues, legal action will be taken.
Eulen staff have threatened that, from Monday, it will stage an 'indefinite' strike if they do not get what they want.
How the government intends to enforce its 'final offer' is not yet clear, but a similar situation involving air-traffic controllers in December 2010 has led to strikers facing prison and fines as well as losing their jobs.
The then socialist president of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, declared an official 'state of emergency', which normally only occurs during times of threatened armed conflict, national disaster or extreme terrorism alerts, and means that any public sector worker in a security-based position who abandons his or her post is guilty of sedition, a criminal offence.
But several air-traffic controllers went ahead with their strike, leaving towers unmanned and forcing Spain to shut its air space.
The knock-on effect was flight delays and cancellations all over the world and airlines having to compensate passengers with anything from food vouchers to hotel stays, flight refunds and cash payments.
At least two controllers were fired and others faced fines and suspended prison sentences, and their appeal against these sanctions failed.