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Spain's Air Traffic Controllers Go On Strike; Pay Isn't The Big Complaint

Two Spanish Iberia airplanes stand on the tarmac at the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas airport in Madrid on Monday. Spanish air traffic controllers started a four-day partial strike that could affect some 5,300 flights.

Despite being among the best-paid public workers in Spain, the country's air traffic controllers started a strike Monday. Their union is protesting the punishment of dozens of controllers who were involved in a 2010 strike that sparked a national state of alarm.

"Some 5,300 flights to and from Spain are expected to be affected," NPR's Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid. "This is the first of four days of work stoppage by Spain's air traffic controllers."

Lauren adds, "But the workers get little sympathy in Spain. They're among the best-paid civil servants, with average salaries almost half a million dollars a year."

The 2010 strike created chaos for travelers in Spain and beyond; Enaire, the company that administers Spain's commercial air navigation, recently ordered dozens of controllers to be suspended for a month without pay over the incident.

Unlike the action five years ago, Monday's strike was announced well in advance; it also coincides with the start of the busy summertime tourist season.

So far, only minimal delays have been reported, according to Europa Press. The government has set a minimum staffing rate of at least 70 percent for the strike, which will occur in eight two-hour windows over the course of four days.

Spain's air traffic controller union, the USCA, has set the strike for June 8, 10, 12 and 14.

In addition to arguments over the punishments for workers over the 2010 strike, the union and Enaire have recently been in a dispute over attempts to boost the number of work hours and cut the pay of Spain's air traffic controllers.

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