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'British Go Home!' say striking Iberia airline staff

'British Go Home!' say striking Iberia airline staff
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Protesters clashed with police at Madrid’s Barajas airport on the first day of strikes by Iberia staff.

Angry that 3,807 jobs will go, ground staff and cabin crew will hold three separate strikes in February and March – with each strike lasting five days. Salaries at the airline will also be cut.

Anger is being directed at British Airways, who merged with Iberia in 2011 to form the International Airlines Group. Slogans on banners read “British Go Home!”

Some argue that the Spanish government should prevent job losses as unemployment in Spain is already over 26 percent.

“The government has 15 percent of Iberia’s shares and if they allow the dismantling of the company to benefit the British company, Iberia workers will fight against this,” said Miguel Angel Jiménez from Spanish trade union ASETMA.

Tourism accounts for around 11 percent of Spanish economic output and is one the country’s few growth sectors in a prolonged recession.

Transport Minister Ana Pastor urged both sides find a solution because of Spain’s beleaguered economic situation.

“Minimum services have been fulfilled but I would like to ask both parties in this conflict to reach an agreement as soon as possible because our country is suffering from a deep economic crisis,” she told reporters.

Restructuring is said to be needed because loss-making Iberia merged with a profitable British Airways. Iberia reported a loss of 262 million euros in the first nine months of 2012.

Anticipating the disruption the strike would cause, Iberia cancelled more than 400 flights this week. Domestic routes are the worst affected, but around 10 percent of the lucrative long-haul flights have also been cancelled.