Avianca must cease its attack on Colombian pilots

July 19, 2019

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) demands that the Colombian courts dismiss a claim filed by Avianca to have the country’s pilot union dissolved.

The Asociación Colombiana de Aviadores Civiles (ACDAC) is facing legal repression at a time when Avianca itself is being investigated for allegedly wiretapping the union during a long-running industrial dispute. If charged, senior managers at the airline could face criminal prosecution. However, if the union is banned before that point the case against Avianca would be substantially weakened.

This latest court filing follows several years in which Avianca has attempted to evade workers’ legitimate demands for fair pay and employment conditions. ACDAC pilots began industrial action in September 2017 after reaching an impasse in negotiations with the company, but soon faced a governmental and judicial crackdown for exercising their fundamental rights.

In October 2017 the Colombian supreme court ruled the strike illegal, claiming that air travel is an essential public service – in contravention of advice from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This opened the door to Avianca disciplining and dismissing union activists, leading to ACDAC filing a complaint with the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association.

Now, in attempting to have the union banned, Avianca is aiming both to resolve an industrial dispute by illegitimate means and to obstruct a criminal investigation against its own management. ITF condemns this action in the strongest terms and calls on the Colombian judiciary to recognise the airline’s repressive tactics for what they are.

ACDAC has until Tuesday 23 July to respond to the court, with a judgement expected by the end of the month. ITF stands shoulder to shoulder with the Colombian pilots and their union in their struggle for fundamental rights and against managerial corruption.

Stephen Cotton, ITF general secretary, said: “We stand with our brothers and sisters in Colombia against this outrageous attempt to repress free trade union activity. Avianca’s attack on our affiliate ACDAC is a transparent distraction from the ongoing criminal investigation into the airline’s own management.”

“We cannot live in a world where, threatened with the consequences of its own misconduct, an employer can have a union legally dissolved. We call on the Colombian judiciary to reject this claim and allow the investigation into Avianca to continue unimpeded.”

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