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Iberia Unions Plan Strike After Airline’s Job Talks Fail

Spanish airline Iberia faces a call for strike action next month after a breakdown in talks between unions and management at the British Airways sister company.

The failure of negotiations involving Iberia and six major labor groups “poses a serious threat to the company, to Spanish institutions and to the tourism industry,” Manuel Atienza, a spokesman for the UGT union, said today by telephone.

Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of Iberia parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, said in November he aimed to scrap 4,500 jobs, more than one-fifth of the total, in a push to stem losses. A revised plan eliminating 3,147 posts and offering improved salary terms was rejected by unions today.

Strikes may begin Feb. 18 and could span at least five days, with unions preparing notification of the plan to Spain’s arbitration service, according to the UGT, which represents 39 percent of Iberia’s ground staff and 14 percent of cabin crew.

IAG, Europe’s third biggest carrier, had set today as the deadline for an agreement. Under the latest offer from Iberia, pay would be cut by 23 percent for cabin crew and pilots and 11 percent for ground workers, versus an original target of between 25 and 35 percent for all categories.

Board Meeting

Iberia proposed reducing capacity by 10 percent, rather than the 15 percent targeted by IAG. The Madrid-based unit said it would also apply early retirement and other incentives if workers agreed to proposals.

IAG’s board discussed the savings plan for Iberia last week and is due to gather again tomorrow, according to a Jan. 24 statement forwarded by spokeswoman Lorena Monsalves, who declined to comment further on the meeting.

Iberia’s Sepla pilots union, which wasn’t one of the six unions to exit talks today, according to Atienza, appealed to Walsh earlier this week, saying it’s willing to cooperate to help prop up the Madrid-based carrier.

An earlier compromise proposal that would have reduced job losses to 3,800 was yesterday called “ridiculous” by Atienza.

London-based IAG fell 1.8 percent to 212.70 pence in the U.K. capital. The stock has added 15 percent this year, giving a market value of 3.95 billion pounds ($6.3 billion).

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