Spanish airline Iberia faces a call for strike action next month after a breakdown in talks between unions and management at the British Airways sister company.

The failure of talks involving Iberia and six major labor groups “poses a serious threat to the company, to Spanish institutions and to the tourism industry,” Manuel Atienza, a spokesman for the UGT union, said today by telephone.

Iberia parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA said in November it would shrink the fleet and scrap 4,500 jobs, or more than one-fifth of the total, in a push to stem losses. Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of Europe’s third biggest carrier, had set today as the deadline for an agreement.

Strikes may begin as early as Feb. 18 and could span at least five days, with unions preparing a notification of the action to Spain’s arbitration service, according to Atienza.

IAG’s board met Jan. 24 to discuss the cost cuts and is due to hold another meeting tomorrow, spokeswoman Lorena Monsalves said prior to the comments from the UGT, which represents 39 percent of Iberia’s ground staff and 14 percent of cabin crew.

“Discussions about restructuring at Iberia are taking place between Iberia and its unions,” Monsalves said by e-mail.

Iberia’s Sepla pilots union, which wasn’t one of the six unions to exit talks today, according to Atienza, appealed to Walsh earlier this week, saying it’s willing to cooperate to help prop up the Madrid-based carrier.

A compromise proposal that would have reduced job losses to 3,800 was yesterday called “ridiculous” by Atienza after the UGT walked out of earlier talks.

London-based IAG traded 2 percent lower at 212.20 pence as of 1:25 p.m. in the U.K. capital. The stock has added 15 percent this year, for a value of 3.84 billion pounds ($6.2 billion).

Editors: Chris Jasper and Benedikt Kammel.

To contact the reporters on this story: Manuel Baigorri in Madrid at [email protected]; Kari Lundgren in London at [email protected] contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at [email protected]

Tags: iag, iberia, strikes
Photo Credit: Iberia skims the beaches during landing in the Canary Islands. Jumbero / Flickr