Largest Avianca pilots' union in Colombia begins strike

Walkout may last for 60 days: ACDAC
||Last Updated: 09/20/2017

BOGOTA (Reuters) — The largest pilots' union at Colombia's flagship airline Avianca said on Wednesday it was beginning an indefinite strike over wages and benefits, after failed negotiations with the company.

The Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (ACDAC) — which represents more than 700 of the 1,300 Avianca pilots working in the country — began the strike after failing to reach a deal with the airline during talks mediated by the labour ministry.

The pilots are demanding salary increases and changes to benefits and work hours. The union says Avianca pilots in other countries earn 30 per cent to 70 per cent more than they do.

Negotiations will restart on Wednesday afternoon.

The union had proposed salaries increase gradually over three to four years, ACDAC president Captain Jaime Hernandez said in a statement.

"Unfortunately there wasn't agreement, much less a respectful counter-proposal from the company," Hernandez said.

The strike can legally last up to 60 days, the pilots' statement added.

Avianca said early Wednesday the pilots' economic demands are impossible to meet and that close to 22,000 passengers will be affected by the strike.

The company — which had already suspended ticket sales for certain dates in anticipation of the strike — will allow itinerary changes for free and reimburse those passengers who do not wish to travel, it said in a statement.

The airline, a member of the Star Alliance and one of the leading airlines in Latin America, carried 29.5 million passengers in 2016, has more than 21,000 employees and serves 105 destinations in 28 countries in America and Europe.

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