Monday, December 20, 2010

The Pain in Spain for Controllers of the Plane—Dictatorship Continues

Spain has extended dictatorial powers militarizing its aviation industry until mid-January. The “State of Alarm” rule allowing the government to place air traffic controllers under military control is a holdover from the Franco dictatorship, first enacted in 1969 and not seen since Franco’s death in the mid-1970s. The law was initially imposed on air traffic controllers on December 4, and allows the military to arrest and imprison any worker who refuses to work. Prime Minister Zapatero secured an extension of the law until January 15, with the support of Congress, the Catalan nationalist Convergence and Union Coalition, and the Basque Nationalist Party.

While air traffic controllers are being compelled to work at gun point, workers for the Spanish Airport Authority have been demonstrating at Barajas Airport, Madrid, against plans to privatize their organization.

The Union of Air Traffic Controllers Association (USCA) president, Camilo Cela, has tried to negotiate with the government to end the “State of Alarm.” He has even offered the government a no-strike deal and a commitment to police his own members. The government, however, doesn’t trust him and has refused to bargain. Cela’s actions should be seen as an attempt to quash worker resistance and solidarity, typical of so many union bureaucrats, who erroneously believe that giving in a little now will somehow protect union members in the long run. What usually happens is the union bosses convince their members to give a little now, a little more later on, and even more down the road, which is part of the reason why American wages have been declining steadily since 1970.

March in Solidarity with PATCO, wiki commons
The situation in Spain should serve as a warning to working people everywhere. As the economic crisis continues and financial institutions demand that workers pay for it through greater austerity, any resistance may be met with similar repression, even in countries like the U.S. (Let’s not forget PATCO, the U.S. air traffic controllers who, in 1981, had hundreds of their members jailed, thousands fired, and who were ultimately decertified, all through a similar presidential decree).

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