BOGOTA – Avianca pilots affiliated with the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators (ACDAC) announced on Friday the suspension of the strike they started 51 days ago and their intention to get back to work next Monday, reported the mediator in the conflict, the Public Ombud’s Office.
The pilots’ decision was registered in a document signed just before midnight Thursday by the ACDAC head, Capt. Jaime Hernandez, and Ombud Carlos Alfonso Negret.
According to the document released by the Public Ombud’s Office, the pilots “decided to suspend the strike, renew air operations 72 hours after the signing of this agreement, and in so doing normalize their labor activities.”
The strike by 702 pilots, half of Avianca’s aviators, started last Sept. 20 in a demand for better pay and other benefits.
Talks between the two sides, with the mediation of the Labor Ministry, were broken off days later when the pilots rejected Avianca’s offer of improved working conditions.
Following a high court decision declaring the strike illegal and several failed attempts by the government to set up an arbitration court to settle the conflict, the Public Ombud’s Office stepped in to act as mediator at the request of the pilots, despite the airline’s refusal to resume negotiations.
In a vote held Thursday night, the pilots affiliated with ACDAC agreed to suspend the strike, which in these 51 days forced the company to cancel 13,699 mostly domestic flights, which in turn affected more than 400,000 passengers.
Avianca has not spoken publicly about the end of the strike, and the Public Ombud’s Office said that as a public agency “it will accompany the return to their occupations by pilots, copilots, instructors, route inspectors and union officials, and will watch over the exercise of their legal and constitutional rights.”
“The Public Ombud’s Office... invites Avianca to accept in good faith this decision by ACDAC and asks that the rights of union workers be respected,” as required by Colombian and international regulations, the document said.