Spanish unions, government agree minimum services for strike

MADRID, Sept 23, 2010 (AFP) - Spanish unions struck an unprecedented deal Thursday to assure minimum services during a September 29 general strike, including 20-40 percent of international flights.

Unions and the government brokered the deal in the early hours to "guarantee calm during the day of the strike," Transport Secretary Jose Luis Cachfeiro was quoted as telling an overnight news conference.

It is the first time a Spanish government has agreed such a deal with the unions.

The two main unions, the CCOO and UGT, called the strike to protest a sweeping overhaul of the labour market designed to slash soaring unemployment and revive the economy.

Unions are also fighting steep spending cuts, including an average state employee salary reduction of five percent and plans to gradually raise the retirement age to 67 from 65.

For international flights, the minimum service deal includes maintaining 20 percent of trips in the European Union flights and 40 percent of those to other countries.

Within Spanish territory, it allows 10 percent of flights within the Spanish peninsula and 50 percent between the peninsula and the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands and the north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

The agreement provides for a minimum of 20 percent of high speed trains and 25 percent of district trains, including 30 percent for morning rush hour. But no regional or long-distance trains are guaranteed.

Between one and three inter-city buses will be allowed to run in each city, it says.

For the last general strike in 2002, then conservative prime minister Jose Maria Aznar imposed minimum services, angering unions which unsuccessfully sued the government.

It will be the first national strike for the Socialist Party government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who came to power in 2004.

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