Workers and police clash at airport during Iberia strike

Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:49pm EST
 

By Catherine MacDonald and Sarah Morris

MADRID (Reuters) - Striking union workers clashed with police at Madrid's Barajas airport on Monday on the first day of a week-long strike over more than 3,800 pending job cuts at Spain's flagship airline Iberia.

More than 80 Iberia flights were canceled as workers at the carrier began a series of five-day walkouts that are expected to cost the airline and struggling national economy millions of euros in lost business.

Hundreds of workers flooded into Terminal 4 at Barajas - the biggest airport in Spain - to noisily protest, chanting and whistling, with one group staging a sit-in. About 2,000 people demonstrated outside the terminal.

The police beat some strikers with truncheons to keep them away from the doors of the international airport, Iberia's Madrid hub, and forcefully threw others out of the terminal. At least five protesters were arrested.

Previous strikes have cost Iberia between 2 million euros and 3 million euros a day, a spokesman told Reuters.

Flights from other airlines were delayed at airports across Spain, including at Madrid and Barcelona, as Iberia baggage handlers, also working for other airlines, joined strikers.

Air stewards and ground staff are holding three five-day strikes in February and March to protest against management plans to axe jobs and cut salaries at the loss-making airline. Some 10 percent of long-haul flights and half of domestic flights will be grounded this week.

Labor unions kicked off the strikes with demonstrations in the morning at most Spanish airports, including Barcelona. At an 8 km march (5 miles) around Barajas, protesters blamed British managers at the airline group for job cuts threatened in Spain.   Continued...

 
Iberia airline workers, on a strike, march towards Madrid's Barajas airport February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Susana Vera