EasyJet Spain cabin crew set to strike in July

EasyJet planeImage source, Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Unions have called for EasyJet cabin crew based in Spain to strike for nine days in July as part of a dispute over pay.

The walk-out would add to passenger woes as airlines struggle to cope with demand after Covid restrictions lifted.

EasyJet has already had to cancel thousands of flights this summer because of staff shortages at Gatwick.

EasyJet and Spanish union USO have been holding talks on cabin crew pay since February, but are now in a "deadlock situation", the union said.

It has called a series of 24-hour strikes throughout July which could affect British holidaymakers.

Union members working from El Prat in Barcelona, Malaga and Palma de Mallorca will walk out from 1-3 July, 15-17 July and 29-31 July, the union said.

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Miguel Galan, USO general secretary for EasyJet Malaga, said flight attendants want a 40% increase in their basic salaries.

He said that Spanish cabin crew pay is not on a par with their French or German counterparts.

EasyJet's Spanish crew get basic pay of €950 per month (£816), the union said, which excludes bonuses and extra pay.

The BBC understands that basic pay typically makes up 60% of EasyJet workers' salaries, with the remaining 40% dependent on factors including how many flights the crew work.

The USO union, which says it represents 80% of the 450 EasyJet staff based in Spain, still hopes an agreement can be reached to avoid the strikes during a meeting with management on Tuesday, Mr Galan said.

According to the European Trade Union Institute, striking is a fundamental right in Spain, and strikes affecting one company can be called by unions, worker representatives or workers themselves.

EasyJet said it pays cabin crew "competitive" rates, and it was "extremely disappointed" about the call to strike action.

"Should the industrial action go ahead there could be some disruption to our flying programme to and from Malaga, Palma and Barcelona during the strike period," the budget airline said.

"But at this stage, EasyJet plans to operate its full schedule and we would like to reassure customers that we will do everything possible to minimise any disruption."

UK holidaymakers have faced flight cancellations and delays in recent months as airlines and airports struggle to cope with increased demand after cutting workers during Covid lockdowns.

On Monday EasyJet said it would cancel flights between July and September after Gatwick Airport said it will reduce the number of flights during the peak summer period due to staff shortages.

Also on Monday around 30 flights carrying up to 5,000 passengers were cancelled at Heathrow Airport due to baggage-handling problems.

On Tuesday Heathrow said the backlog, which the BBC understands numbers thousands of bags, was "clearing up".

The baggage system has been "back up and working" since the weekend, a spokeswoman said, adding that "bags are being sent to their destinations".

Slots 'amnesty'

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport (DfT) said legislation had been put before Parliament to allow a one-off amnesty on airport slots rules.

Slots allow airlines to land planes, use the airport infrastructure, and then take off again.

Airlines normally need to use slots a certain number of times per season to be able to keep them but the government said it would allow airlines to hand back summer slots they do not think they can use.

The DfT said the change would help prevent last-minute cancellations, while Airlines UK, which represents the industry, said it would "help build greater resilience into operations this summer".

Chief executive Tim Alderslade said airlines would "continue to work with ministers and the whole aviation eco-system to ensure the summer peak runs as smoothly as possible for our passengers".