Air traffic controllers in Spain announce strikes

by Lorraine Williamson
Madrid airport control tower strikes

MADRID – After broken negotiations between the air traffic controllers of the control towers of the companies Saerco and Ferronats, the unions USCA and CCOO have announced strikes. 

The controllers will go on 24-hour strikes on January 30, February 6, 13, 20 and 27. The trade unions declared on Wednesday morning that they had broken off negotiations on the agreement of air traffic controllers with the APCTA employers’ association. 

APCTA unites the private air traffic control providers Saerco and Ferronats. The privatised towers in Spain are those of the following airports

  • A Coruña
  • Alicante
  • Castellón
  • Madrid-Cuatro Vientos
  • El Hierro
  • Fuerteventura
  • Ibiza
  • Jerez
  • Lanzarote
  • La Palma
  • Lleida
  • Murcia
  • Sabadell
  • Seville,
  • Valencia
  • Vigo

In the rest of the Aena network, it is the public Enaire that controls the control towers. 

Privatisation of control towers at sixteen airports 

In July 2020, Aena awarded control of the tower at 12 of its airports for a period of seven years and €101.9 million. A first batch (Alicante, Valencia, Ibiza and Sabadell) went to Ferronats. The second (Vigo, Jerez, Sevilla, A Coruña, Cuatro Vientos) and third (La Palma, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote) were supplied by Saerco. The contract of Ferrovial’s then subsidiary was €43 million, while Saerco offered €35.5 million for its first lot and €22.8 million for the second, totaling €58 million. 

Criticism of Saerco’s attitude 

Both unions now criticise “Saerco’s attitude, which is contrary to reaching any kind of agreement”. The company allegedly obstructed the proposals presented by the workers’ representatives in the various negotiating meetings from the very beginning.” 

On the contrary, “significant common points” have been reached with Ferronats, “without it being possible to pull Saerco to the consensus of the other parties”. As long as no firm agreement is reached, there is a conflict. 

Tired staff 

The unions state that “air traffic controllers unions have been trying to reach an agreement and abandon important issues at this time of air traffic recovery and with constant cuts in rights granted in the past”. 


CCOO and USCA want negotiations to resume. In this way, an agreement could be signed in this time of recovery of air traffic. This signature is even more necessary if the image of the country’s main economic activity would be damaged by delays at Spanish airports. 

Tasks of Saerco and Ferronats 

The tasks of the private companies Saerco and Ferronats are known as tower control or aerodrome air traffic services (ATS). As of 2011, they have been responsible for approving takeoffs and landings, managing the final phase of descent and the initial phase of aircraft takeoff. The controllers also provide the necessary ground movements. 

Liberalisation of control towers was aimed at improving efficiency 

The liberalisation of the control tower was part of the aviation restructuring. The aim was “to maintain the quality of service by improving efficiency”, as stated in a December 2010 ministerial regulation of the Ministry of Public Works. 

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