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Domestic flights operating after pilots cancel 48-hour strike

Unions representing pilots claim the government is seeking to favour international pilots with more flexible licensing mechanisms that will take jobs from Argentine workers.

Friday 14 December, 2018
Pilots gather inside the Aeroparque airport in Buenos Aires (file).
Pilots gather inside the Aeroparque airport in Buenos Aires (file). Foto:Télam

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The 48-hour nationwide strike announced by pilots last week was suspended on Wednesday after their unions agreed to talks with the government over licensing procedures for international pilots.

The Airline Aviators Union (UALA) and Airline Pilots Association (APLA) agreed with the Transport Secretariat to a 15-day freeze on all strike activity, the unions announced via Twitter. 

"APLA announces that it will comply voluntarily with the freeze, effectively cancelling the announced strike and restoring normal flight activity", the association said in a statement.

Domestic carriers were operating without major delays at the country's main airports on Thursday and Friday.

Unions representing pilots will meet again with Transport officials on December 17 in an attempt to resolve the conflict.

APLA said it hoped for "mature and responsible dialogue among the parties in order to defend the interests of Argentine aviation workers".

Unions claim the Macri government is seeking to favour international pilots with more flexible licensing mechanism that will take jobs from Argentine workers and undermine the sector's unions.

"The government is not only prioritising foreign workers in the country, to the detriment of quality Argentine workers, but it also directly attacks unions in the sector and civil and general aviation in Argentina in general, degrading it and increasing labour precariousness", APLA chief Pablo Biró said during a press conference this week at Ezeiza International Airport.

strike
(source: Télam)

DIETRICH FIRES BACK

Transport Secretary Guillermo Dietrich denied the claims, telling Radio La Red that new licensing mechanism for foreign pilots "is aimed at simplifying the incorporation of people who have a license to fly, so the bureaucracy is more simple and less trying".

"This benefits Argentina pilots who fly internationally and who are coming back" to work in Argentina, he claimed. Compared to 2015 there are "one hundred more pilots" working in the country, Dietrich said.

"There is a 50-year-old law in Argentina that says that instructors can come to work in the country for two years. The Kirchners brought [instructors] here when they (as a government) bought Embraer for Aerolíneas (Argentinas) and nobody was worried then", he charged.

Norwegian Air is one of the newest passengers carriers in Argentina's aviation sector. It brings its instructors from overseas, Dietrich said.

"Andes bought two Argentine pilots back to the country from overseas; Norwegian, 10; and Flybondi, nine. What weren't these pilots working in Argentina? Because the union did not let them: They were working at Aerolíneas (Argentinas), they did not comply with a strike, so [the unions] crucified them so [the pilots] would not stay on in Argentina", he charged.

Passengers in Argentina have suffered several airline strikes in the past few months, as unions and government lock horns over wages, the integration of several low-cost carriers to the sector, and fears that the Macri administration will move toward privatising national carries Aerolíneas Argentines and Andes.

-TIMES

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