Friday, July 28, 2006

The big news today in Barcelona is that strikers have closed down the airport. Iberia's handling personnel have not only walked off the job, but they've blocked all three runways, forcing all air traffic to halt.

Why are they striking? Because Aena, the company that administers El Prat airport, awarded the new handling contract to Air Europa, Spanair, and FCC, presumably because their bid was better than Iberia's. The Iberia workers fear that they will lose their jobs, even though the new bosses are required by byzantine Spanish labor laws to take all of them on.

What I can never figure out is why such things are tolerated on the Continent.

Yes, workers have the right to organize and strike, and they have the right to assemble and protest. But let them do so without interfering with other people's own rights. Everyone knows the old analogy, "Your rights end where my nose begins." If the strikers had stood out in front of the terminal holding signs, no problem. But blocking the runways so no one else can use the airport is something quite different.

And this stuff happens all the time in Spain. Truckers and farmers block highways with barricades of burning tires. Not that long ago Barcelona taxi drivers blocked off airport access.

I am not sure whether these actions are protected by law, but if they are, they shouldn't be, and if they're not, somebody should have arrested the strikers and hauled them away. There has to be some kind of law forbidding interference with public services.

But this is the Continent, and so the authorities let them get away with it.

About 100,000 passengers were supposed to have used El Prat today. Somehow I don't think any of them are very happy right now.

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