BOGOTA, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Talks to end a strike by the largest pilots’ union at Colombia’s flagship airline Avianca were suspended after failure to reach agreement on wages and benefits, the two sides said on Wednesday, extending an indefinite walkout that has left travelers grounded.
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 on Sept. 20 when talks mediated by the Labor Ministry ended without a deal.
Avianca said the ACDAC did not accept the company’s proposal, which included a wage increase of 12.75 percent, and the union said the airline then withdrew the offer without allowing it to consult with affiliates.
“Widespread demands, including a 60 percent increase in wages and a number of benefits that exceed the limits of the company, would cost more than $274 million annually, are inadmissible and puts at high risk the (company’s) sustainability and competitiveness,” Avianca president Hernan Rincon said in a statement.
A statement from the ACDAC said several of the agreements reached during mediation with the Labor Ministry were changed and that Avianca “in an attitude of pride decided to leave the table and withdraw the proposal.”
Avianca, which has suspended ticket sales, has asked Colombian courts to declare the strike illegal on the grounds that transport is an essential public service and that the walkout was approved by only a part of the ACDAC affiliated pilots and without the support of all the airline’s employees.
If it is declared illegal, the pilots can be fired.
Avianca, a member of the Star Alliance and one of the leading airlines in Latin America, carried 29.5 million passengers in 2016. It has more than 21,000 employees and serves 105 destinations in 28 countries in America and Europe. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Bill Trott)