January 26, 2016 / 2:27 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Argentina orders halt to LATAM Airlines workers' strike

(Adds government ordering talks)

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Argentina’s labor ministry ordered striking aviation employees to resume wage talks with LATAM Airlines and return to work, a ministry official said on Tuesday, after their walkout grounded four flights out of Buenos Aires’ main airport.

The workers, who belong to Argentina’s Union of Commercial Airline Senior and Professional Personnel, went on strike at dawn at Ezeiza International Airport over stalled pay negotiations.

An online departure board on the website of airport operator Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 showed delays of four flights from Buenos Aires to Chile, Peru and Brazil.

Local TV showed snaking queues in the Ezeiza check-in hall, and passengers were advised to contact the company.

Labor relations are prickly in Argentina, where trade unions routinely butt heads with private companies and the government over the scale of pay increases.

A spokeswoman confirmed the mandatory negotiations but said she had no further details.

The strike is a sign of what is to come for President Mauricio Macri ahead of wage talks with the country’s most powerful unions in the coming weeks. Macri oversaw the lifting of capital controls that led to a sharp devaluation of the peso .

LATAM operates TAM in Brazil and LAN Airlines in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

In a separate dispute with the Argentine Federation of Aeronautic Personnel, or FAPA, the government earlier this month ordered salary talks between pilots and LAN Argentina.

Union officials said both pay rows would fester if the company did not offer a bigger salary increase.

“At the end of the month the compulsory talks between LAN Argentina and the FAPA union will end, and we’re likely to have another conflict because the pay offer the company has made is very low,” Sergio Mercau, a spokesman for an affiliated pilots union, told TV channel C5N. (Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Von Ahn)

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