Now in its third week, 700 pilots at country’s largest airline continue to strike, affecting over 300,000 passengers
In spite of mounting pressure from all sides, the 700-plus Avianca pilots who began the Avianca pilot strike action on September 20 show no sign of backing down.
After several rounds of negotiations failed to reach an agreement and business associations complained of the cost to the country’s economy, the Ministry of Labour pushed the case to the court of arbitration on September 28.
This arbitration process sets out a clear timetable to resolve the dispute. However, the pilots’ union – the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (ACDAC) – are refusing to participate in it since they consider the process illegal.
The strike has cost Avianca, Colombia’s biggest airline, over USD$2 million per day and has seen over 3,200 cancelled flights and 300,000 affected passengers. The airline now has permission from the country’s aviation authority, Aerocivil, to bring in foreign workers. They are contesting both the workers’ demands and their constitutional right to strike.
The pilot’s union issued a 30-page manifesto covering a range of issues from maternity benefits to working hours – setting minimum rest periods and maximum numbers of consecutive trips that can be carried out in a working day. They are also demanding wage parity with countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina and Mexico.
In an overlapping judicial process, the Tribunal Superior de Bogotá has ruled that the strike is illegal – in favour of Avianca – on the basis that transportation is an ‘essential public service’, thereby exempting workers from their constitutional right to strike. ACDAC are appealing the decision.
Meanwhile the country’s air traffic control union, ACDECTA, have come out in solidarity with the pilots. While they have not joined the strike, they are going to work to rule. The union argue that some of their workers are going well beyond the regulation 60 hour week, with some working up to 100 hours.
If you are affected or believe you will be affected by the Avianca pilot 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.