Avianca Signs New Labor Deal with Pilots’ Union that Raises Salaries and Ends Threat of Disruption to Operations
Avianca officially signed a labor agreement today with the the union representing nearly half of its pilots that “includes a substantial increase in the gross income of pilots and co-pilots,” according to the airline. As announced last week, the deal will increase the salary of the nearly 800 pilots in the union by 11.5%, which is double the 2016 inflation rate in Colombia.
The deal between the Bogota-based carrier and the Organization of Avianca Aviators (ODEAA) will govern labor relations effective immediately through 2020 and averted the potential of further action by union members that could disrupt operations.
The urgency of negotiations between two sides rose when the ODEAA agreed on March 14 to forego a full strike and extend talks for an additional 20 days. Previously in a move deemed “Cero Trabajo Suplementario” (zero overtime), pilots in the union had refused to work overtime, a practice that Avianca and many airlines rely on to ensure flights can operate on time.
The ODEAA had been seeking a pay raise that would make the earnings of its members commiserate with other pilots in the region, according to Reuters. The news agency reported that some pilots in the region make up to $11,500 USD per month while those flying for Avianca earn around $6,000 each month.
Avianca had reportedly offered a 7.25% raise for 2017. This was higher than last year’s 5.75% inflation rate, the metric typically used to gauge cost-of-living increases for many workers in Colombia, but well below what the pilots were seeking.
“Our salary structure is not determined by the best-paid country in the region, but rather it must take into account the purchasing power of each country where we operate, as is done in any global company,” stated Avianca in a letter to ODEAA earlier this month, according to Reuters.
The deal puts to rest the potential for pilots to strike and will normalize the overtime provisions. The public statement from Avianca announcing the signing of the agreement did not specify the full extent of the new terms.
Avianca did say that the new governing document “includes a substantial increase in the gross income of pilots and co-pilots, meeting the financial needs of this group and the objectives of productivity and competitiveness of the company.” It added that the accord also includes “operational improvements in flight planning and the quality of life of the crews.”
The union had also been concerned about the effect that Colombia’s recent national tax reform would have on the take-home pay of its pilots. But Captain José María Jaimes, president of ODEAA, said today that the new agreement has sufficiently addressed the issues of its members.
“This agreement allows us to make operational improvements while maintaining our purchasing power,” said Jaimes. “This motivates us to continue contributing to the productivity and efficiency processes that the complexity of Avianca’s operations demand.”
Avianca head Hernán Rincón said that the company is pleased with a final agreement. “The agreement, on financial and operational matters, is beneficial for all parties.”