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ECONOMY | 23-07-2020 02:50

LATAM airline workers stage protest at City Airport

Dozens of employees from the Chilean-Brazilian airline LATAM staged a protest on Wednesday to demand clarity over their jobs, after the government rejected a bid to open crisis prevention proceedings. 

Dozens of employees from the Chilean-Brazilian airline LATAM staged a protest on Wednesday in front of the City's Jorge Newbery Airport to demand clarity over their employment, after the government rejected a bid to open crisis prevention proceedings. 

The protest relates to the firm's decision to close its Argentine subsidiary indefinitely after 15 years of operations. The move puts 1,715 jobs at risk.

"We are here defending jobs, continuity and asking for an end to the extortion that is taking place in illegally dismembering the company, extorting and pushing us to take voluntary redundancies," cabin crew member Franco Fernández, 29, told AFP.

Fernández said that the company has to "face up to what it wants to whitewash here – if it has a downsizing plan or if it wants to leave the country – and do so but with the legal mechanisms."

"We are not interested in compensation, we want to continue working," said Paula Viñas, 51, a worker at the City's Airport. 

Viñas said she last received her salary three months ago and then only half. The company has "used the pandemic to make adjustments and make it more flexible," she charged.

On Tuesday, the Labour Ministry rejected a request to open crisis prevention proceedings – which allows for the dismissal of employees by paying 50 percent of the severance pay – as a result of President Alberto Fernández's coronavirus pandemic-inspired decree which prohibits dismissals without cause, or orders firms to pay double severance.

The request before the Labour portfolio was presented by the airline on June 17, when LATAM announced in Santiago de Chile that it would indefinitely shutter its Argentine subsidiary.

According to the company, the region's largest, "the conditions of the local industry [in Argentina], aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic," means "the viability of a sustainable project is not visualised."

LATAM Airlines Argentina has stopped flying to 12 domestic destinations, while its other subsidiaries will continue to operate in the United States, Brazil, Chile and Peru. The carrier filed for bankruptcy in the United States in May, having been forced to scale back its operations by 95 percent due to the pandemic as travel ground to a halt worldwide. However, last month, the company said it had secured US$1.3 billion in financing from a US investment fund to help it survive the aviation industry crisis.

Around 20 workers at the City airport are staying in the carrier's hangar, in order to prevent LATAM from removing their planes. 

"We have staff inside the hangar, who are at their workplace because all of us who are here are permanent employees. We have not been fired, nor have we received any telegram that has removed us from the company, so far," said Sergio Jiménez, 45, a leader of the Technical and Operations Union. 

– TIMES/AFP

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