Europe

Spain airport strike could hit holidays

Demonstrators protest against the planned privatisation of Aena in Madrid, 26 February
Image caption Madrid has already seen marches against the privatisation

Travellers heading to Spain for Easter face chaos after the country's main trade unions announced 22 days of planned strikes.

They including four during Easter week and other walkouts have been called for the May bank holiday, and at the height of summer.

Unions are protesting at the government's partial privatisation of the airport management company.

They argue that this will lead to airport closures and job losses.

Transport Minister Jose Blanco has said the government will meet union officials on Thursday for talks to avert the walkout.

Unprofitable airports

The government plans to sell a 49% stake in the national airport authority, Aena.

It values that stake at close to 8bn euros (£7bn; $11bn) - crucial to its efforts to reduce the budget deficit and avoid a debt crisis like those in Greece and Ireland.

But trade union officials fear the sell-off will mean job losses, poorer working conditions for those retained and a reduced service.

They are also demanding that all 47 Spanish airports remain open - even the ones that are small and unprofitable.

Up to 12,000 workers could join the walkout - including firefighters and some security staff - bringing airports across the country to a standstill.

The trade unions say they have been in negotiations with the government since the privatisation was announced in December but that those talks have now stopped.

Tourism and airline managers are calling for both sides to act responsibly, warning such strike action - at peak holiday times - would cause serious damage to Spain's economy, which is still struggling to recover from the recession.

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