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ATC situation in Spain

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ATC situation in Spain

Old 27th May 2010, 11:33
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Spain
Posts: 65
ATC situation in Spain


It´s been a long time since I last updated the changing situation we ATCO´s are experimenting in the lasts months in Spain. I´m going to throw in some info so that you can make yourself a picture of what to expect when you fly through our skies. Maybe this can prevent some rant from you guys on the radio or in this forum. I´ll try to limit myself only to facts, some other time I´ll let you know my opinion:
  • We have been imposed BY LAW (no talks, no agreements, no negotiation with our union) an increase in our yearly working hours, from 1200 hrs to 1670 hrs, 39% more hrs a year.
  • Our time for breaks has been reduced, also BY LAW, from 33% to 25% daily, and from 50% to 33% during nights. No previous study about the impact on our work load has been made. This adds to the increase in our yearly hours: we work more hours with less resting time. The distribution of the breaks is sometimes surreal: breaks at the beginning of your shift make you work 6 hrs with only a 45 min. break.
  • Mandatory recalls are now legal for us (only for Spanish ATCO´s, this doesn´t affect to the rest of the Spanish workers, yet ...), anytime, anyday, 24 hrs a day, 365 days a year. This means that AENA (Spanish ATC SP) can make you work whenever they want, on your days off, with no excuses for not attending the service. They can let you know with only 6 hrs notice, so you can imagine how this disturbs your private life: wife, kids, friends, etc ... SLAVERY?
  • Vacations are now assigned by AENA, and you can only know your monthly schedule (including holydays) on the 20th of the previous month: that is only 10 days to plan ahead your holydays, family life, etc ... Even so, AENA can change it anytime, anyway they want.
  • Operational decisions are now taken by staff non-operational personnel: runway in use, number of sectors and configuration in use, sector capacity, regulations, calibration-aircraft timetables, ATCO´s at work ... ATCO supervisors must obey their orders without discussion.
  • Veteran ATCO´s older than 57 (the most experienced) are not allowed to control anymore, and are now forced to do burocratic jobs. This has been a great loss for all of us, because of their huge experience on the job. At Madrid TMA, about 30% of the ATCO´s have been retired from operational jobs, and have been hardly replaced by already exploited colleagues or by non-operational ATCO´s forced to return to the ACC.
  • The limit of monthly working hrs has been risen to 200 hrs. My wife works around 180 hrs from 0900 to 1700, no nights, no weekends, no holydays ... Some people are working 20-25 days in a row, and on their days off it is usual to be assigned an "imaginaria" service: you must be on call 1 hr before the service starts up to 1/2 an hr after because they can phone you and you must report at work. And even if you don´t have an "imaginaria" that day, a recall can be imposed the previous day.
  • When we complain about sector capacities being exceeded, the answer we get from AENA or from EASA (Spanish air safety agency) is that it´s our fault for abusing direct routings or clearing FL different from those filed in the FP. They even remind us that there is an Eurocontrol document preventing against direct routing and non-scheduled FL´s.
  • Our salaries have been cut up to a 70% in some cases. AENA is not respecting pay agreements signed with the ATCO´s during the last 10 years. We don´t know what we will get paid next month.
  • Socially, our profession has been ruined as we are now seen by most of the people as privileged lazy scum with high salaries and low productivities, always on strike, always abusing the rest of the citizens (the last strike in Spanish ATC was in 1986), in a country with more than 5 million unemployed (more than 20%). The media campaign against us reached even international news agencies, and had nothing to envy to that made by Goebbles against jews.
  • You can be fired for "disciplinary" reasons anytime. You can consider the concept "disciplinary" in the context in which this whole message is written.
  • You can be sent to another destination at AENA´s wish. No excuses, no compensation. We are expecting to see several forced relocations of ATCO´s from Barcelona ACC to Madrid ACC to compensate for the veterans they decided no longer could be operational.
  • Sick leaves are on the rise, with the increase of work-load for those still active: at LEAL, 8 out of 18 are down, at Sevilla ACC its 18 out of 120 down, etc ... My colleagues are literally breaking down on a daily basis.
  • All the trainning time has been suspended: no more time for new procedures, new LOA´s, new systems ...
  • LSA (Air Safety Law) can impose very high monetary fines on ATCO´s, up to 240.000 €, for diverse reasons. In fact, AESA doesn´t have a state budget: they finance themselves by the fines they impose. Bye, bye "just culture" ...
  • High season is about to begin in the coasts of Spain and at the Balearic Islands ...
  • USCA (Spanish main union, 96%) has repeatedly denounced that SAFETY IS AT RISK in the Spanish skies: 96% increase in incidents in march, with 7 almost-collisions at Madrid TMA (class A incidents) in 4 months. More info at: Caos en los cielos españoles :: Aviación :: Política :: Periodista Digital
  • USCA has been spied by Spanish state intelligence, their webpage has been hacked, the mails have been stolen.
I hope this helps you to understand why we can´t give direct routings or FL other than those of the FP, or some other non-desirable situations. I can assure you that we Spanish ATCO´s are doing our best, as we have always done. I will gladly attend any question that arises on this matter.


Last edited by p_perez; 27th May 2010 at 11:42. Reason: Corrections
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Old 27th May 2010, 12:39
  #2 (permalink)  
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My dear spanish colleagues,

If you think that your T&C aren't atractive anymore ,please Shall we change positions?
You may come to my airport and I will go to your airport. Package for package without additional renumeration allowances.
But let's examine sentence by sentence:

1.Increase from 1200 to 1670 hr per yer.It means from 100 hours working per month to 140 hr per year. It is still behind my working hours that are 156 minimum,or another rule in that direction: Number of working days during the month multiple with 8 i.e in some months it could be as much as 176 or extreme case 184 hours per month. It is also regulated by Law.personally I remember 144 hours as a rule but that has been changed in contract but nobady knows when and how,even Law says that representative of workers must accept changes.

2.Time for breaks, 1 hour if your shift is 12 hours,if you work in administration 8 hours dayli you are still entitled to 1 hour break.

3.Mandathory recalls: We have no such formal institution but if SATCO calls you it means immediatelly!

4.montly schedule is never released before 25th due to "high importance of projects" but anyhow schedule doesn't mean anything because it could be changed undefinitelly number of times per month

5. For idea "direct routing" I have been punished only once,so far.....

Socially, our profession has been ruined as we are now seen by most of the people as privileged lazy scum with high salaries and low productivities
Our proffesional associations take the highest responsibility for such public attitude.They haven't done anything in that direction.

7.Yes,Director general could fire up to 5% of total workfoce in company without any explanation,in one year. If he/she needs more firings than should ask iunion representative for opinion.Could you imagine what does it mean in real life?

8.You could be sent at any location without explanation or whatsever,since 1945.

9.Not air safety law but Criminal Law, deals with the mistakes during the operational work. 5 years in prison if you gave wrong navigational instruction.

10 Union has always been under strcict state control.Nothing new.

So as you could see I will consider move to Valencia APP as a positive change.....

Best regards,
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Old 27th May 2010, 13:56
  #3 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Holy Shte that is absolutely shocking

Perez, you and your collegues have my utmost sympathy, I hope it improves for you.

SINGAPURCANAC: sounds like your T&C's suck, but nothing justifies the travesty going on in spain at the moment
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Old 27th May 2010, 14:45
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thanks for simpaty,but I messed some other points,
-ATCO's job still is premium job.1000 aplications per available seat
- I like my job,and I would like to retire as atcos if it is possible,
- salary is three to four times average salary
-and last thing,but the most crucial:
The lowest paid,aps atco in Europe. Everyone else has better T&C in Europe.

I am fighting hard,for each issue mentioned above for ages, but we should be at least honest at the end of the day.
No one force us to work as an ATCO. I haven't seen mass resignation.And of course it would not happen in Europe.
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Old 27th May 2010, 17:36
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Spain
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"Mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos", spanish proverb


honestly, I get no confort knowing that your conditions at work are, in some cases, worst than ours in Spain (btw, where are you working at?).

I really hope that you didn´t expect me to be any happier if we were whipped twice at work, just because they whipped you more! And I also hope that it is not your desire that every ATCO in the world has your same conditions at work!

When I applied for ATC school in Madrid, we were almost 7000 applicants for 150 seats. After 22 months at school, with a monthly pay of 150 € (thank God my wife had a job to pay the mortage), we were offered a contract with AENA under certain conditions. These conditions are the ones that have been changed by law by this goverment we are suffering in Spain. It is like changing the rules in the middle of a match, just because the other team is not happy with the score. And the referee is also playing for the other team!

One important point that I didn´t put clear enough in the other message: our former 1200 hrs a year did not include vacations or training. If they were included, the total would have been 1500 hrs a year. Now it is 1670 PLUS vacations and training.

Anyway, what is really important here is the fact that all this mess is affecting SAFETY in our system. AENA (their managers) consider that the debt that grew up to 13.000 million € since 2004 (before that AENA had always had benefits) is more important than SAFETY. And we ATCO´s are suffering this philosophy.

Best wishes for your profession, wherever you are ...


P. S. thanks for the sympathy, coolbeans. Very much welcome!

Last edited by p_perez; 27th May 2010 at 17:39. Reason: Post Scriptum
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Old 27th May 2010, 18:08
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The other side of the coin

The average basic salary is €200,000 (£176k), but most workers double or triple this by working overtime.
I have heard from several sources (the quote above happens to be from the Daily Mail and we all know that they tend to twist facts), but I know a Spanish air traffic controller and whilst I have not asked her how much she earns, she does live extremely well and has told us that she earns far more than her husband who is an avionics engineer with many years of experience, and he is well into 6 figures.

Whilst I would certainly not condone any actions which could impact on safety, such as imposing longer working hours, and so on, the conditions outlined above should, I think, be taken within the context of this very high salary. I am not in any way belittling the work that the controllers do and the huge responsibility they have.
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Old 27th May 2010, 19:45
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Well that didn't take long....

Capetonian, are you seriously believing something from the daily mail? According to the same source the Irish ATCs average €230K too, not! The Spaniards were on a good wicket, now they are on a bloody lousy one from my reading of it.

Singa - The race for the bottom has not commenced in this profession, yet. You don't have to have sympathy for someone doing better than you, but at least show some empathy for those now suffering from imposed draconian conditions.

P_perez, good luck with your plight. Imposed work rules, practices and salaries are never a good outcome; it sounds as if you guys have gone from a 'great job' to a very average one (perhaps even a poor job). Hopefully your union can get in there and fight for you both publicly and politically. The PR battle is always important and the truth gets in the way of good copy. Don't rely on public empathy you can't even get that from your own profession if reading this thread gives any clues. Safety, safety, safety is your PR message. Hours of work (fatigue), no social life, forced overtime, strict medical standards, lack of experience on the boards leading to publicly available statistics (ie increased incident rates and/or near misses etc) are good places to start. Get IFATCA involved too, they have lots of resources about 'average' working conditions and safety expectations/outcomes.

It's good political pressure to explain why you are below average (in whatever category) even though you'd consider yourselves to be a 'first world' country.

PS I can't believe you haven't downed tools yet? Is that what they want you to do, Reagan solution then pending?
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Old 27th May 2010, 20:03
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What I find the most shocking fact is that non-operational personel decides about operational problems. How on earth can some bean-counter decide which runway is in use or which sectors are to be consolidated etc????

About the contract details: I can understand everyone is upset about the changes. Anybody would be with so many goodies taken away. What I seriously criticize is AENA being able to call you to work at very short notice and with seemingly no limitations concerning working days in a row. In our outfit we don´t hear those calls anymore if we don´t want to go. It´s still mostly on a voluntary basis, because management knows sick days would rise if they forced people to work.

I wish you guys down south all the best, let´s hope you´ll make it through the busy period without serious happenings. However I´ll still give direct routings for the southbound aircraft! With the slots creating a 15-minute-window the average shortcut won´t hurt at all. I don´t think you can make up more than 10 minutes on a 2hrs-flight just by shortcuts. At 420kts that would mean a saved distance of 70 miles...that´s rather unlikely to be possible.
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Old 28th May 2010, 07:29
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@p perez,blocka,

It seems that you missed somwhere my point. I hadn't idea to say that everyone contracts should be as mine. Also I didn't say that my contract is bad,I just said that even as the lowest paid aps atco in europe I am far away from bad living standard. Actually, 99% of workforce is not even close to atcos T&C.

I just pointed out that your contract changes is nothing special .
In liberal or social capitalism, it is the fundament of all relations.
Conditions aren't fixed.
If you said that you need fixed conditions I think that for this you have to go North Korea,at least.
So if we agree that conditions aren't fixed than we have to accept changes.
Management realised that they could reduce T&C.
How many spanish atcos have left the job since changes ?
I will tell you. ZERO
And you know better than me why the number is zero.
-There is no better place in the whole world,to be an atco,(when you count everything,salary,lifestyle,general conditions,,and so on.....)

So that is the reason,why I said that if you aren't satisfied I will take your position.
Of course such option is not available for me,unfortunatelly ....

And you know all those stuff,but it is easier to cry rather than to smile....

Anyhow best regards to spanish atcos,and if I could help,I will be glad to do so
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Old 28th May 2010, 07:40
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Capetonian, are you seriously believing something from the daily mail?
I hinted that I was sceptical, but I feel that it must be based on truth, and I do have other evidence, as mentioned, that the Spanish ATCs do earn a pretty impressive salary - and my information is current.
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Old 28th May 2010, 09:04
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Capetonian, yes I did copy your skepticism but you then went on to "believe it" and publish it
do earn a pretty impressive salary
Perhaps you meant to say "did earn"? Things have changed, no?

99% of workforce is not even close to atcos T&C.
I'm afraid you are selling the community way too short. Most people I know get far more notice than 10 days for their roster and are not effectively 'on call' on every day off without the right to say no I'm not coming in.

Anyway, back to topic - Good luck to all in Spain, you're gonna need it.
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Old 29th May 2010, 13:20
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Question MAD Speed Control

Question for p_perez:

We're vectored onto the LOC 33L from Tobek having been instructed to maintain 220 kts. That Controller then changes us to the next frequency, he/she then clears us for the ILS. Are we expected to maintain 220 kts until instructed otherwise, or should we reduce anyway in accordance with the AIP to 180 kts at 12nm and 160 at 6nm. Problem is, the verbal instruction to reduce speed often never comes, which can be embarassing
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Old 29th May 2010, 14:16
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you hear a lot of impressive figures, but what actually IS the basic salary of a Spanish ATCO? No overtime, no frills.. just the "entry" level for a valid ATCO. Something that equates in the UK at just over £ 45k a year (in nats)
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Old 30th May 2010, 07:26
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Question MAD Discontinued Approach Technique

OK p_perez, here's another question while you're thinking about the answer to my first above:

We're vectored on to the 18L LOC still at 11,000 ft QNH (9000 ft AGL) at BERUC (21.4 nm final). We decide the approach can't be completed safely from this altitude so we decide to discontinue the approach. Are you expecting us to:

(a) Maintain 11,000 ft and fly the standard missed approach tracks?
(b) Descend to 8,000 ft (the missed approach holding altitude) and fly the standard missed approach tracks?
(c) Change to TWR as instructed and ask for instructions?
(d) Remain on your frequency and set transponder code 7600?
(e) Hold in our present position?

Last edited by Nightstop; 30th May 2010 at 07:28. Reason: spelling
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Old 30th May 2010, 08:24
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Legal Tender, you want to know our salary? Then ask our P.M. José Blanco, because we have no idea. We still don't know what we'll be paid at the end of the month. Since the decree our salary has been reduced every month and we don't know when it's going to stop. Rumours are we'll end up earning between 3.000 € and 2.000 € depending if we work in a big ACC or a small TWR, and we are allready close to those figures.

Actually, next month I'll probably earn around 1.500 €, because I recently enjoyed a 15 days leave for having a child and I've just received a letter denying me those days and therefore they'll be discounted from my next pay. That's a right for EVERY worker in Spain... except for ATCOs apparently.

Singapurcanac, you really made me laugh when you said that there is no better place in the whole world to be an atco... In just a few days we've had four anxiety attacks (in LERS, LECP, LECS and LEAL), two of them had to be evacuated by an ambulance to the hospital. Last week in a sector where the maximum capacity was 26 acft/hour we had 34 acft in 30 minutes plus an emergency... and the high season is about to start and the "bean-counters" don't care to overload the sectors and keep chosing the runways in use that allows more acft per hour despite the wind or other factors.

It's true so far nobody has quitted the job yet, but it is also true that more than 20% of the staff is on medical leave. Many of us are thinking about quitting the job, we are just waiting to see how the situation develops (waiting for the trials), but we are not going to stand this situation for ever, at least not me.

I used to like this job, but my wife and kid are more important to me. Having only three or four days off a month (and still having the possibility of being forced to work those days) is the perfect way of breaking up a family.

And, the most important thing of all, it's a matter of time that one of us is going to get involved in an ACCIDENT.
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Old 30th May 2010, 22:47
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Whats happening in Spain sounds absolutely scandalous, and whats more, if the accounts are accurate then anyone interested in safety must hear the alarm bells ringing...

Of our T&Cs in NATS, one that many of us hold dearest is our repeating roster, with the ability to plan our home lives accordingly. To take that away would create a lot of stress in many households. Not exactly what you need when going in for a shift.

I guess this is a real impact of the austerity measures being introduced in some EU countries. Good luck to my Spanish counterparts, I hope you have better news soon.
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Old 31st May 2010, 00:32
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Originally Posted by beaver liquor
Whats happening in Spain sounds absolutely scandalous, and whats more, if the accounts are accurate then anyone interested in safety must hear the alarm bells ringing...
+1, scandalous indeed.
Alarm bells and whistles all sound fairly strident to me, and I'm on the other side of the world.

Regardless of how good the past conditions have been, I am disappointed that some controllers in other places may be prepared to "turn the other cheek" in regard to what appears to be happening. No matter how bad conditions may be in your own countries, this sort of treatment by the employer, with apparent government backing, is untenable, and is likely to result in Bad Things Happening.

To my Spanish counterparts, all I can suggest is that you keep a good paper trail (or email trail) of recalls/hours worked, work practices/training shortfalls you perceive to be unsafe, and formally protest each time you are required to work a shift that you would prefer not to. It may make no difference, but at least there is a record.

If I was on holiday in the area, I would probably choose to fly around rather than through Spanish airspace, as a SLF. Inconvenience or not.
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Old 31st May 2010, 09:12
  #18 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2006
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I could not understand some comments.Thread is shifting from "Situation in Spain" to "What SINGA actually said" .
If I understand properly point of thread is
-Deteriorating of T&C in Spain

and according to main idea of thread,I clearly said:
-that even with significant deteriorating of T&C ,Spain still remains as the best possible place to be an ATCO.

If you don't believe to me than put ad on flightglobal for vacant Spanish position,and you will see thousands of applications per available seat. Of course if they avoid number of restrictions such as: university degree, Spanish language, no salary until validation and so on.

Also as someone who is fighting on daily basis with T&C issues from my experience I know that only one sentece in this direction is applicable:

"If you think that you deserve more ,go to open labor market and check it! "
This sentence is especially applicable in European Union,for citizen of EU!

That is the beginning and end of all T&C stories.
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Old 31st May 2010, 09:49
  #19 (permalink)  
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Animo companyeros

My best wishes to all my colleagues in Spain. I haven't been directly in touch with all of you (obviously difficult since you guys are so many) but if you need anything please let me know.

Singa, yes, the thread is regarding spanish T&C's, however you made a remark here, therefore it is open for debate. It feels quite insulting that, after the company gets to change the T&C's of their own accord (no negotiation) you deny them of their right to complain and try to do something about it. I do not doubt that you're worse off, unluckily for you, but that doesn't mean that AENA and the spanish government have acted well. Feels like you playing a game and the rules change half way so you cannot win. Just because you were doing well, too damn well.

Pd: como ya le he comentado a otros, por ahora en Maastricht no buscan a mas, pero estoy convencido de que es algo coyuntural (crisis+volcán). Pero si vais a dar el salto, mirad aqui regularmente: EUROCONTROL - Job Opportunities for Qualified Air Traffic Controllers

Good luck, your fight is our fight, if you loose maybe we will all loose in the long term if other "goverments" choose to copy Blanco.
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Old 31st May 2010, 10:23
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after the company gets to change the T&C's of their own accord (no negotiation) you deny them of their right to complain and try to do something about it.
I have just said that we aren't able to do anything. I saw it in my short carrier numerous times.
If Spanish government had idea to negotiate they would do it.
It is more than obvious that Government had NO idea to negotiate.
Does Government(or regime if you would like to call them properly ) have power to do so,even in Europe?
Is it correct way in today' Europe?
But,what really workers could do in such cases?
We need it ,but majority finds it as a non-necessary move,so there is no revolution.
What else ?
To accept changes,because...(you or whoever wants ,name it)
Change company.
life is so simple,but people like to cry over destiny instead of doing proper steps.
It is human nature.

And to return to Spanish case,I will tell what Spanish atcos will find if they try to change something.
-Send CV to prosperous employer.
Than they will realize:
- That at Middle East,atco earns great salary,but also
-they work in environment where modern safety doesn't exist(ask Vercigetorix)
- you will go to jail if you made huge mistake,
-no contract guarantees,
-no one ask you anything,
-you are supposed to work,and only work
- home is 5000km far awayat least,and you will face situation that you have to go but there is no option to do so.
- family issues,wife usually stands at home,children has to change school and even in some cases school system has to be changed
- in cases of some cities ,everything but ecology
-and main question what after 3/5 years of contract.....

than when you put on paper everything, you will realize all those and many other hidden issues for only 2000/3000 euros per month,if it remains in your pocket ,
it could be easily to understand why
Murcia TWR for 1000 euros per month is so good option.

the only real problem is that management also knows this so they act properly.
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