Aviation workers from Brazil and Argentina are striking to improve the working conditions at the giant LATAM Airlines Group. The company has fired union leaders in Peru and Ecuador without cause, and has made cost cutting changes in the operations, that workers believe could potentially affect flight safety standards.
In Brazil, civil aviation workers have voted in favour of a national strike starting on the 3rd February from 6am, to 8 am. Workers are launching a passenger information campaign explaining the reasons for the strike and alerting passengers to the difficulties they will encounter.
“Striking is the last measure we take to express to the company the need to recognize and value our professional skills and qualifications. We are responsible for flight safety standards and the success of the aviation sector in the region.” explains Sergio Dias, President of FENTAC, the Civil Aviation Federation of Brazil.
In Argentina, the labour conflicts and strikes have also not been resolved. In January, strikes of no more than a few hours resulted in delays to more than a dozen flights at the domestic and international airports and created additional delays in Chile, Peru, Brazil and Paraguay. The strikes and worker assemblies started a legal mediation process involving the Labour Office of Argentina, which will reach its final day on February 4th. Strikes are likely to continue after February 4th with the effect of multiplying cancellations and delays in the region.
Flights to be Impacted Throughout Latin America: Delays and Cancellations likely
The strikes in Brazil and Argentina are likely to create a perfect storm across the region. There will likely be delays and cancellations from airports in Buenos Aires and the following Brazilian airports: Guarulhos y Congonhas (São Paulo), Santos Dumont y Galeão (Rio de Janeiro), Brasília, Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Curitiba, Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza and Campinas.
The strikes will affect cargo flights as well as passengers and all airlines which have connections due to the high utilization rate of aircraft in the region.
Argentina is a central connecting point in the region particularly for passenger and cargo flights to and from Brazil. The first half of February is a critical time for flower exports, particularly from Ecuador and Colombia to North America and Europe. Delays in delivery affect the quality of floral exports.
LATAM’s cost cutting programs include the company's new “remote dispatch” system and numerous reductions in the number of mechanics, dispatchers and other highly skilled aviation workers critical to passenger and cabin crew safety.
In Ecuador, LAN flight crew are being required to work multiple assignments in one day, potentially in conflict with the legal rest limits of the country, resulting in stress and fatigue, with, they believe, possible safety implications.
Dispute Likely to Broaden to Include Colombia and Ecuador
The dispute may broaden to include Colombian aviation workers. Today, In Colombia, on Feb 2nd, the company will be providing their response to the aviation workers’ unions’ efforts to improve wages and conditions. If the dispute is not resolved, the Colombian workers are likely to take action to support the striking workers in Brazil and Argentina.
Aviation workers in LAN Ecuador remain without a contract despite years of attempts to negotiate improved conditions with the company.
Adding to the labour conflicts in the region, the company has fired Jimena Lopez, Secretary General of the aviation union in Ecuador (SITA), and Eiko Murata, leader of the LAN Peru ground staff union. Both of these female aviation leaders were the founders of the first unions of aviation workers in their areas.
Dina Feller, Coordinator, LATAM International Network of Unions
+54 9 11 6303 0725
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