Spain is threatening to declare a state of emergency if air traffic controllers do not return to work. The Wildcat strike has paralyzed air traffic for a second day on Saturday and is threatening to worsen current economic issues.
“If the situation doesn’t normalize, the government will declare a state of emergency,” Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba said ahead of a hastily assembled cabinet meeting in Madrid.
“The controllers will be mobilized and if they don’t get back to work, their cases will be passed immediately to the judiciary and they will be accused of a crime which could mean a prison sentence.”
The air traffic controllers walked out over a long running dispute over pay with the state run AENA. The government had just recently approved some changes that define the number of hours a controller may work a year, and allowing for the military to cease Spain’s air space in times of emergency. The Unions had not supported these moves.
The controllers gave no warning as they began to walk off the job claiming they were sick.
“I was inside the plane with my kid and they told us the plane was not flying as controllers had decided to strike…” Ramon, a Madrid resident who was flying to Mallorca for his mother’s funeral, told Reuters.
During a time when Spain is implementing some tough reform, the air traffic controller’s high salaries and short working hours have come under attack.