The government has stepped in after tensions deepened on both sides of the Avianca pilot strike as the country’s biggest airline failed to reach an agreement with the striking pilots.
The turbulent times have already affected tens of thousands of people after more than 700 pilots opted for strike action over pay, safety and working conditions.
Avianca have suspended ticket sales for flights to and from Colombia until October 5 for all destinations except Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, London, La Paz, Washington and Montevideo.
Members of the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (ACDAC) began striking on September 20 arguing, among other things, that the company should pay them as much as pilots in other Latin American countries. Avianca – who maintain that the strikes are illegal – has had to cancel over 200 flights every day.
However, the government has now stepped in to force an end to the situation – a move that the ACDAC have branded illegal.
The Ministry of Labour have pushed the case to arbitration, which means that each side now has three days to appoint an arbitrator. They will also have to jointly agree on a third arbitrator or have one appointed.
Then, both parties will be given ten days to resolve the Avianca pilot strike. This term can be extended for a further ten days. The arbitrator’s decision will be enforced by the Supreme Court of Justice.
The initial negotiations began on August 23 had been going for 20 days before the pilots’ union took the decision to strike.
Avianca, Latin America’s second-largest airline, have also filed a case with the High Court in Bogotá on the basis that transportation is an “essential public service” – therefore workers are constitutionally barred from striking.
If the courts agree that the action is illegal, Avianca could end up firing the striking pilots.
The company’s top shareholder, Germán Efromovich, previously said that the pilots “don’t have the moral or legal right” to adopt their “radical position”.
The strike is costing Avianca over USD$2 million every day.
Mathew Di Salvo
If you are affected or believe you will be affected by the strike, you should check www.avianca.com for further information as to your rights and refunds. On www.aviancaultimahora.com you’ll find live updates on flight information.