14th April 2024
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Last day of Iberia ground staff strike, but ‘thousands of suitcases’ still displaced

The fourth and final day of the Iberia ground staff strike started on Monday, and while the anticipated delays did not materialise as severely as expected, several airports across Spain are now grappling with a backlog of displaced baggage, where flights have left behind thousands of pieces of luggage – with over 3,000 suitcases still not delivered to travellers, according to an RTVE report [see video below].

The strategically timed walkouts, coinciding with Spain’s ‘Three Kings’ weekend for maximum impact, were organised from Friday 5 January until Monday.

While the strikes led to the cancellation of numerous flights, affecting over 45,600 passengers, the main impact of the industrial action has been the accumulation of thousands of unattended suitcases at Spanish airports, as flights have been forced to depart without their baggage. 

While Iberia has acknowledged ‘problems with hundreds’ of pieces of luggage in three of the 29 airports where it handles baggage, Spain’s national broadcaster has reported that over 3,000 items had still not been delivered to their owners on Monday.

Iberia acknowledged that the baggage problems have increased in the airports of Barcelona, Bilbao and Gran Canaria, and assured they are ‘working intensively’ to ensure that the baggage reaches their owners at their destinations, either by air or by road.

Antonio Sánchez Santana, the air sector leader of the Spanish Union CCOO in the Canary Islands, reported on Sunday morning that Gran Canaria Airport alone had between ‘3,500 and 4,000 suitcase’ backed up.

19% of the ground staff were participating in the strike on Monday morning and 88% of the scheduled flights had departed on time, according to the airline.

The workers are protesting that the company has ruled out managing its luggage (known as self-handling) at the nine airports where Iberia Airport Services recently lost a tender to airport operator Aena.

On Sunday, the union USO (Unión Sindical Obrera) threatened to call another strike for the ground staff because of Iberia’s ‘immovable’ attitude during the pre-strike negotiations.

Unions argue that outsourcing former Iberia workers to new operators will adversely affect their working conditions and rights. About 8,000 staff employed by the Iberia Airport Services subsidiary would be impacted, operating across 29 airports in Spain, including Barcelona, Alicante, Valencia and Málaga.

Last-minute negotiations between Iberia and unions to avert the walkouts broke down last week, leading to the strike. Unions have already declared their intention to call for further strike action if Iberia fails to take corrective measures.

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