By Victoria Waldersee
LISBON (Reuters) - Workers for Portuguese airport handling company Portway started a three-day strike at Lisbon, Porto, Faro and Funchal airports on Friday over the company's refusal to unfreeze salaries after three-years of no pay increases.
Around 85% of Portway workers are taking part, Fernando Simões, spokesman for the National Union for Civil Aviation Workers (SINTAC), who called the strike, told Reuters.
Flights so far have departed with between 20 and 80 minutes of delay, according to Portugal's airport authority.
"The company hired contracted, part-time workers for these days," Simões told Reuters. "But flights still may be cancelled over the course of the three days."
Talks between SINTAC and Portway, owned by Vinci Group, broke down in December when the company said it would not unfreeze salaries, despite committing to doing so by November 2019 when the freeze was implemented in 2016.
The union says that the company's decision is intended to punish the union's rejection of a revised work contract put forward by Portway in August.
"For three year workers have seen their career progression and salaries frozen for the sake of the company's financial health," they said.
"Many sectors of economic activity have disappeared in Portugal - agriculture, fishery, industry - and sadly many others, like airport handling, are at risk of disappearing too. We need to alert Portuguese people," the union said.
The union also announced a strike on overtime and weekend work between Jan. 1 and the end of March.
Simões told local news agency Lusa that the strike would be called off if the company confirmed in writing that it would unfreeze salaries by the end of 2019 as promised.
Portway denied the allegations, according to Lusa, stating that they "scrupulously comply with regulations, including in relation to labour law."
(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee, Sergio Goncalves, editing by Louise Heavens)