Published On: Tue, Sep 26th, 2017

Colombia’s Avianca weathers strike by more than half its pilots

Avianca_newsfull_hBOGOTA - As a strike by more than half its 1,300 pilots moved into the second week, Colombian flag carrier Avianca has activated what the airline calls an operational mitigation plan.

“We have … adjusted our itineraries in the most efficient ways possible with active crews and available physical resources,” Avianca said, advising passengers to check flight status or request refunds if flights are canceled. Last week, all ticket sales for destinations within Colombia were suspended for three days as a measure “intended to mitigate potential damages,” the airline said.

The 730 pilots, represented by the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (ACDAC) went on strike Sept. 20, following a breakdown in contract negotiations. Avianca declared the pilot strike illegal, saying while the right to strike is guaranteed by the Colombian constitution, it is not guaranteed for essential public services. Avianca cited a public law saying transportation is an essential public service, “therefore, the strike called by ACDAC is illegal [and] should [the pilots] follow through, the airline will take the corresponding disciplinary measures.”

However, ACDAC president Jaime Hernandez responded saying commercial aviation “is not an essential public service, so there is no illegality in this strike. [While] the operation of Avianca will be decreased by 50%, passengers should be aware that there is a total commitment by ACDAC to settling disputes [quickly] with the company.”

Avianca said it had presented more than 20 proposals to ACDAC leaders to improve pilot benefits, which were rejected by ACDAC. In April 2017, Avianca reached an incremental 11.75% salary and benefits package agreement with the Avianca Aviators Association (ODEAA), which represents the rest of the airline’s pilots.

“Unfortunately [ACDAC] aspires to a global salary increase of 60%, which is far removed from the financial reality of the company,” Avianca said in a Sept. 20 statement.

Avianca and ACDAC have not had a direct agreement since 2013. The pilots represented by ACDAC are Colombian, not international, pilots and as national workers, do not receive the same wages as international workers, the union said.

Avianca said the strike will affect nearly 22,000 daily passengers in Colombia. The Wall Street Journal reported the strike will last for 60 days.

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