Pilots from the state-owned Aerolíneas Argentinas are threatening to go on strike again amid an ongoing dispute over salary increases.
Last week, the Association of Airline Pilots union (APLA) announced a “state of alert”, hinting at the possibility of further strikes in the future.
The pilots of Aerolíneas are in conflict as they have not received a wage increase since last year despite rising inflation.
Isela Costantini, President of Aerolíneas Argentinas, had sent an offer to the workers of an incremental increase of 35% over 11 months as well as a bonus at the end of the agreement in September 2017 worth an estimated $13,500. APLA is seeking a 45% wage increase for pilots.
The union claimed last week that the company had then removed the offer from the negotiating table after revealing disappointing results in the second half the year. A statement from APLA accused the company directors of adopting a “confrontational attitude” so as to “force a conflict in order to justify the unsatisfactory results of management decisions we clearly do not handle.”
APLA also accused the airline of taking the business towards a “commercial disaster” by offering discounts of up to 30% to “increase passengers”.
The situation became more tense last week after President Mauricio Macri criticised industrial action by transport unions, adding that running Aerolíneas Argentinas “costs [the equivalent of] two nurseries a week”.
APLA Secretary General Pablo Biró retorted that Macri’s words “were not innocent”.
“He says that Aerolíneas is a business of lazy people, who resist change,” said Biró. “I don’t know what the change is, that they haven’t adjusted the salaries since September last year?”
Biró also claimed that “They have an open air policy to harm Aerolíneas and I do not have a doubt that they are looking to privatise the business.”
Speaking on local radio this morning, ex-president of Aerolíneas Mariano Recaldo also predicted that the government would eventually seek to sell the carrier: “it will be a slow change, not something abrupt, but it is heading towards the hollowing out and privatisation of Aerolíneas Argentina.”
Macri has previously wanted to sell the airline and put this idea forward when he was mayor of Buenos Aires. However, he promised not to do so during last year’s presidential campaign.
The company was privatised in 1990 under Carlos Menem before being bought back by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2009.