Iberia Express, a short-haul subsidiary of Spain’s national flag carrier that pays cabin crew lower wages than their colleagues at the mainline airline, has been forced to cancel at least 92 flights over the span of a 10-day walkout called by the USO union in protest at stalled contract negotiations.
The walkout began on Sunday, August 28, with the cancellation of at least eight flights that grounded more than 1,100 passengers. Iberia Express said the vast majority of affected passengers had been rebooked onto alternative flights the same day, but at least 178 passengers had chosen to cancel or had not yet made a decision.
An intervention from the Spanish government means that the vast majority of Iberia Express flights are set to continue as normal throughout the strike period which runs to the end of September 8.
Cabin crew at the airline are legally required to show up to work on flights protected by Spain’s Minimum Services Regulations which are imposed on services that connect underserved or isolated destinations. Iberia Express said 99 flights, or 92.5 percent of scheduled services on Sunday, were protected by the Minimum Services Regulations.
The USO union called the walkout after Iberia Express allegedly showed “zero interest in improving the working conditions”. Negotiations began in December 2021, but the union claims the airline has only offered options that are “far from reality”.
“It has been eight months in which the management of Iberia Express has had the opportunity to negotiate and bring realistic proposals but has preferred to dizzy its workers and use passengers as hostages,” commented USO representative Estefanía Díaz.
Diaz met airline negotiations on Friday in a last-ditch attempt to reach a deal and prevent the strike from going ahead, but no progress was made. Cabin crew have not received a pay rise in the last seven years.
Iberia Express was created in 2012 as a lower operating cost subsidiary of Iberia for short-haul services on previously loss-making routes. Iberia Express now operates a fleet of 23 aircraft and flies to around 40 destinations both domestically within Spain and across Europe.
“At Iberia Express we deeply regret the inconvenience that this situation is causing to our customers and apologize for it,” a spokesperson for Iberia Express said on Sunday.
“Once again, we call for the responsibility of USO, the union that calls for the strike, to call off the strikes and bet on dialogue and not on social confrontation, which does so much damage to Iberia Express workers, their customers and the future of the company.”
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