Managers and pilots of Colombia’s biggest airline, Avianca, returned to the negotiating table for the fourth time to attempt to reach agreement over pay.
Members of the Fliers Organization of Avianca (Odeaa) have been taking industrial action for over a week, leading to the cancelation of around 200 flights. The pilots are taking part in a “zero extra work action,” similar to work-to-rule, and are asking for a salary increase to match inflation plus 25% for pilots and a 27.93% increase for co-pilots.
According to union’s leader Jose Maria Jaimes, the increase is a fair request to bring Avianca pilots up to the wage levels of pilots for other airlines and to averages across Latin America. He said: “Our demands are not exaggerated, but adjusted to the economic reality of the country and because we are on lower salaries than other airlines and than the rest of Latin America.”
Avianca president Fabio Vilegas has expressed his hope that an agreement is made soon. The company has responded to Jaimes’ demands with a proposal for an increase in line with the Consumer Price Index.
At the center of the dispute is infrastructure issues at Bogota’s El Dorado airport which can lead to delays. Jaimes wants these delays to count as overtime pay. He said in an interview with El Tiempo: “When we land, we sometimes have to wait up an hour to park. And knowing this, the company dares to ask that that be part of pilot’s salaries.”
Two weeks ago Avianca put out a statement saying that they would reduce daily flights by 3.5% during negotiations. They said the adjusted the flight schedule would be in effect until the end of October while the near 1,000 pilots stopped working overtime.