September 15, 2017 / 10:27 PM / 10 months ago

Majority of Avianca pilots in Colombia call strike over pay disparity

BOGOTA, Sept 15 (Reuters) - More than half of Avianca’s Colombian pilots voted on Friday to hold an indefinite strike amid a dispute over wages and benefits, the president of the union representing the flight crews said.

A work stoppage by the pilots could seriously affect the airline’s operations both domestically and internationally.

Captain Jaime Hernandez, president of the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (ACDAC), told Reuters the strike will begin between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27.

“We are going to define zero hour,” he said after a general assembly at which the pilots voted to suspend work.

Hernandez said ACDAC members want their salaries to be in line with those received by Avianca pilots in other countries, who earn 30 percent to 70 percent more than local pilots.

Avianca said in a statement it had presented ACDAC leaders with more than 20 proposals to improve the benefits Colombian pilots receive. In March, it agreed wages with another union of crew members an agreement to raise wages, the airline said.

“Avianca categorically rejects the call for a strike made by the (ACDAC) as an illegal route that affects customers,” Avianca said in the statement.

About 700 of the nearly 1,300 Avianca crew are affiliated with the ACDAC, making it the carrier’s biggest union.

“We want to end wage discrimination,” he said.

The union also wants to reduce the workload of the pilots.

Avianca, 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.

The opposing sides may resume talks in search of an solution that would prevent the strike, union and company sources said. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; writing by Helen Murphy, editing by G Crosse)

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