Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spanish Air Traffic Controllers Should Be Fired

As many people know, Spain isn't doing too well these days. They are still reeling from the effects of the financial crisis. The unemployment rate is over 20% and the government has a budget deficit equal to 11.2 % of GDP. As a result the government is forced to reduce its expenditure and become more efficient. This includes cutting the salaries of public workers.

With this in mind, I was horrified to hear about the strike of Spain's air traffic controllers, who all decided to call in sick on Friday in protest to cuts to their benefits. As a result tens of thousands of stranded travellers were forced to sleep in airports at the beginning of a long holiday weekend, at a cost of millions of euros to already anemic economy.

What were they complaining about?

Well Spanish air traffic controllers were being paid triple their regular wage for overtime hours with the result being they earned, on average, $ 463,600 per year! The government, rightfully, saw this as an area where they can cut costs, and limited the amount of overtime hours available to each controller. This resulted in their pay being cut in half.

Poor air traffic controllers are now making "only" $ 230k on average now. That's still three times more than what the Prime Minister of Spain makes and eight times what the average Spaniard makes ($26,500).

In response to this outrageous strike, the government placed all the nation's airports under military control and ordered all of the air traffic controllers back to work under the threat of disobeying a military command, an offence punishable by up to 2 years in prison.

I don't think they went far enough. The Spanish government should have done what Regan did to the striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization in 1981...He fired them. Not only that, he also banned them for life from Federal government service and de-certified their union.

Call me particular but according to my bizarre logic if 20% of the workforce is unemployed and the 80% who are employed pay you EIGHT times what they make and you go ahead and disrupt the nation's airports on a long weekend stranding thousands of people and costing the economy millions in losses...YOU'RE FIRED.


Anonymous said...

totally agree, very interesting article

Anonymous said...

Totally disagree, the government has had every chance to solve this industrial dispute, it happens every holiday season Why then did they not solve it earlier? and recruit /train new controllers? Maybe its because they are as competent in negotiating with trade unions as they are in solving Spain's economic problems.
The issue is not about unions, its far deeper and PSOE use this dispute as a scapegoat.
A distraction.
You downplay the freedom and liberty aspect, look the special law that was passed, to patch the problem, takes everyone's liberties away.
In Spain we are under martial law. Franco would be proud if alive and kicking.
The industrial dispute is not about pay, its more about terms and conditions. The lawyer representing the controller's mentioned the government is changing the meaning of words.

Words were important in George Orwell's 1984 and that is the issue here. WORDS have a meaning, you cannot change their meaning even if you are the government.

Ok fire them but who are you going to replace them with?