MADRID (Dispatches) – Thousands of Spaniards packed Madrid’s landmark Plaza Mayor square on Thursday to demand higher pay in the first mass protest since the start of the cost of living crisis.
“There is no dignity without wage hikes,” protesters chanted. Some waved placards that read: “Salary hikes or social strife!”
Inflation in Spain slowed to 7.3% in the year to October from readings of over 10% in the summer months but remains well above normal levels. Euro zone consumer prices climbed at a record pace of 10.7% last month.
The surging inflation, combined with an economic slowdown, is mainly the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent disruption of gas deliveries to Europe.
“When consumer prices jump 10% and salaries rise by 1% it means workers are losing purchasing power fast. We are getting poorer every day, and the worst part is that there is a minority getting richer at our expense,” said Tomas Perez, 52, a nurse and member of the UGT union.
Unai Sordo, secretary general of Spain’s largest union CCOO, told broadcaster SER that the demands to employers were only reasonable. Unions want an increase of 4%-4.5% this year and 2.5%-3% in the following two years, he said.
Antonio Garamendi, head of Spain’s main business association CEOE, ruled out pay hikes in line with inflation but signaled openness to discuss more modest increases.
London’s Heathrow Airport Staff to Strike
Hundreds of London’s Heathrow airport workers are set to walk out in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup over demands for better pay.
The Unite union said on Friday that 700 workers involved in ground-handling, airside transport and cargo, employed by the Emirates Group’s airport services subsidiary Dubai National Air Travel Agency (Dnata) and Menzies, will strike for three days starting November 18.
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said in a statement: “Strike action will inevitably cause disruption, delays and cancellations to flights throughout Heathrow, with travellers to the World Cup particularly affected.”
The strike action at Europe’s busiest airport will lead to disruptions, cancellations and delays at Heathrow terminals 2, 3 and 4.
Other airlines, including Virgin, Singapore Airlines, Cathay-Pacific and Emirates, will also be affected, said Unite.
U.S. airlines also are profitable again, and their pilots want a bigger cut of the industry’s recovery.
The biggest airlines in the country are negotiating new pilot contracts, and talks with unions so far haven’t gone well. This week alone, unions representing about 30,000 pilots combined at American Airlines and United Airlines rejected potential contracts.
The tensions come as the industry rebounds from the Covid-19 pandemic, which devastated travel demand and drove airlines to record losses of around $35 billion in 2020. The pandemic also derailed contract talks with pilots, flight attendants and other groups, setting the stage for widespread negotiations throughout the industry this year.
Airlines are facing the dual challenge of combatting a shortage of pilots while keeping a lid on costs. Meanwhile pilot unions are demanding higher pay and better schedules, on the heels of a roller coaster two years.
Both sides are staring down the risks of persistently high inflation.