Thousands of passengers in Argentina heaved a sigh of relief last night.
In a dramatic showdown, airline workers unions lifted the strike called for December 13th and 14th hours before it was set to start, after deciding to abide by a binding resolution, known as a mandatory conciliation, issued by the government on Wednesday.
In a press release, APLA (Asociación de Pilotos de Líneas Aéreas, which includes pilots from Aerolíneas Argentinas, LATAM, Andes and Avianca) union spokespeople said that even though the organization’s workers believe that the resolution should not be applied in this case, they will abide by it. UALA (Unión de Aviadores de Líneas Aereas, with pilots from Austral) union workers also said they would do it.
The resolution indicates that union members will have to guarantee that they will not go on strike for at least 15 days, while the two parties go back to the negotiating table, with the government – more precisely, officials from the Production and Labor Ministry – as a mediator.
Government officials have their work cut out for them, as the two parties have been at odds for months now and continuously cross public accusations.
Transportation Minister Guillermo Dietrich has criticized unions for their strikes, arguing that all of them have ulterior political motives. Talking to press on Tuesday, Dietrich said that the protests “come from a sector that is responsible for the failure of airline policies for the past 15 years.”
On the other end of the proverbial ring, APLA spokespeople indicated that “setting aside past experiences, we hope that those on the other side abandon their arrogance and intransigence so we can finally begin a mature and responsible dialogue between the two parties, aimed at defending the rights of Argentine airline workers.”
Contrary to previous occasions, workers are not demanding a salary increase this time, but in fact protesting a resolution made by the Administración Nacional de Aviación Civil (ANAC) last November 22nd, which enables the entry of foreign pilots to operate on commercial domestic flights, arguing that the Transportation Ministry is favoring foreign workers with this resolution.
The unions that were set to participate in the strike were the APLA and the UALA.
However, ANAC head Tomás Insausti indicated that the controversial measure will only be effective for a period between three and six months, while other pilots are trained. “We always demand further validation in Argentina even though the International Civil Aviation Organization signed an agreement toward automatic validation in Lima last Friday. We did not sign it,” he said.
As both parties fail to reach consensus, the conflict is set to continue. But at least those traveling today and tomorrow will be able to reach their destinations comfortably.