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EDITORIAL

Political accountability in the conflict of Barcelona airport

How can Rajoy advise against political action when he spends all day accusing the Catalan authorities of doing nothing for the Catalan people?

“We must try to resolve people’s problems, so let’s not make this a political thing”. This was Mariano Rajoy’s cynical answer when he was asked about the ongoing industrial action in Barcelona’s El Prat airport. How can Rajoy advise against political action when he spends all day accusing the Catalan authorities of doing nothing for the Catalan people? When a mixed public–private company such as Aena jeopardises the interests of Catalans with its appalling management of Barcelona’s  airport, are we expected to just keep quiet? Politics is supposed to serve the people and Mr Rajoy has shown that he could care less if the city's airport is a shambles due to industrial action because, until yesterday, he had ignored the issue entirely.

The truth is, the Spanish PM has every reason to keep quiet. In 2016 Aena —the publicly-held firm that manages Spain’s airports— earned the princely sum of €1,164m, a figure that only multinational companies such as Inditex can dream of. In the first semester of 2017, Aena’s profits  amounted to €460m, with the airports of Madrid and Barcelona as its two cash cows.

Spain’s Transport Ministry is ultimately responsible for Aena, given that the Spanish State holds a 51 per cent stake in the firm. Thanks to the strike by Eulen’s employees, we have begun to understand the company’s methods a little better: it outsources its services to low-cost suppliers whose employees earn under €1,000 a month with junk contracts and few benefits. And these are the people who are supposed to ensure that passengers are safe.

In this context, yesterday we learned that the employees of Ilunión, the company that Aena outsourced baggage handling to, are making similar demands and have called a strike beginning next week. And if that wasn’t enough, Aena’s own staff are planning industrial action in September. Is all that not enough reason for the Spanish government to take action and provide an answer urgently? Or do they simply not care that the airport through which most foreign visitors arrive in Spain should present such a dismal image? Transport Minister Íñigo de la Serna must provide an immediate explanation of Aena's employment policy and, if necessary, he must be held accountable. That is what they call politics in civilised countries.

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