Unable to Settle Wage Dispute, Colombian Pilots Union Plans Strike that Would Threaten Avianca Operations
The strike, which could begin this week, perhaps as soon as September 20, is the result of an inability of the two sides to reach an agreement over wages and benefits, said the ACDAC head on Friday after breaking off negotiations. Discussions had been ongoing since August 23.
The union — which includes some 700 of Avianca’s roughly 1,300 pilots — has cited various concerns, including aviation security issues, but chiefly feels aggrieved that its Colombian members make 30% to 70% less than Avianca pilots in other countries, according to ACDAC head Jaime Hernandez. During negotiations, the union has sought to end this “wage discrimination,” according to ACDAC, as well as reduce the workload of its members.
According to Avianca, enacting a strike would be illegal. While the Bogotá-based carrier acknowledges that employees have a right to strike that is guaranteed under the Colombian constitution, it says that this doesn’t apply in the case of “essential public services.” The airline, citing a 1995 law (“Law 336”), argues that air transportation classifies as an essential service.
“We call on ACDAC’s directors and pilots who are part of this association to act sensibly, recognize the efforts that have been made, and not resort to extralegal recourses,” said Eduardo Mendoza, vice president of safety, ethics, and compliance at Avianca.
The airline, which said in a statement that it “categorically rejects the call for a strike,” maintains that it presented ACDAC with “more than 20 proposals to extend the benefits received by Colombian pilots” and that the union “did not accept any of the proposals and unilaterally ended” the discussions.
Avianca further criticized the union’s decision since it “prevents the parties from using the 20-day extension allowed by law to reach an agreement.”