March 14, 2017 / 5:10 PM / 2 years ago

Colombia's Avianca, pilots seek salary deal to normalize service

BOGOTA, March 14 (Reuters) - Pilots flying for Colombian airline Avianca are seeking a negotiated pay increase that would allow the airline to return to normal operations after many pilots last week stopped working overtime hours, officials said on Tuesday.

The Organization of Avianca Aviators (ODEAA), the union representing nearly half of Avianca’s pilots, has ruled out a full strike for now and agreed with the airline to extend negotiations for 20 days.

“If there’s no agreement, the zero overtime will continue,” ODEAA President Jose Maria Jaimes told Reuters.

Jaimes said that 750 pilots grouped in the ODEAA demand that their salaries be equivalent to those paid to pilots at other Latin American airlines - or as much as $11,500 a month, up from $6,000 with Avianca.

The ODEAA-represented pilots argue that a new government tax reform, which began in January, has also cut into their salaries.

Avianca, which said it will extend its dialogue with the union, has offered a 7.25 percent pay increase - above the country’s 2016 inflation rate of 5.75 percent - but ruled out leveling of salaries against other regional airlines.

“Our salary structure is not determined by the best-paid country in the region, but rather it must take into account the purchasing power of each country where we operate, as is done in any global company,” Avianca said in a letter to ODEAA seen by Reuters.

Avianca Holdings, a member of the Star Alliance and one of the leading airlines in Latin America, carried 29.5 million passengers in 2016, 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 G Crosse)

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