Avianca ground staff return to work after bitter dispute

February 27, 2015

A bitter dispute between ground staff and Colombia’s national carrier Avianca finally ended on 9 January, when 130 workers who had been barred from their workplace returned to work

Avianca uses co-operatives to outsource loading, unloading and aircraft and counter cleaning, although the 2,400 workers are employed by Avianca in all but name, which contravenes Colombian law. The SINTRATAC union is trying to get them recognised as direct workers.

The dispute began when workers complained about shift patterns which forced them to work longer than the legally permitted 48-hour working week. In April 2014, Avianca told 50 workers that they would be dismissed and would receive redundancy pay if they signed an agreement. The workers refused and 700 airline workers protested in support, with some 400 joining SINTRATAC.

Avianca’s attempts to stop a protest by 150 workers in November 2014 resulted in an 11-day sit-in at El Dorado airport, without cooking and washing facilities or access to water. Avianca prevented anyone from helping the protestors and airport operator OPAIN tried to get the national police to remove them. The human rights ombudsman intervened to arrange ambulance access and the workers’ departure. Doctors put the workers on sick leave for up to two weeks, after which Avianca began disciplinary proceedings against all 150 and refused to let them return to work.

In January, the Servicopava co-operative allowed the workers back to work when SINTRATAC obtained a letter from Avianca to OPAIN and the Civil Aviation Authority which requested that the listed workers be denied entry because they no longer worked for the company.

SINTRATAC vice-president Maria Cristina Cadavid Barbera said: “At last the 130 workers are working normally again, although they have not been paid for the period they were denied access to their workplace. At every stage Avianca has claimed the workers had no right to join a union and refused their right to union representation. We’re grateful for the mediation efforts of the government and will continue to fight for those rights.”

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply