BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s air transport unions, from flight attendants and pilots to cargo personnel, gathered on Tuesday in Buenos Aires to protest against the government, which has organized hearings to study the entry of new airlines into the market, including budget carriers.
Carrying flags and signs and beating drums, about 1,000 people from various unions demonstrated starting early Tuesday morning at the doors of the theater in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of La Boca, where the government of Mauricio Macri began hearing the representatives of the sector and of the five airlines wanting to expand into or begin operations in Argentine skies.
The arrival of the airlines would change the Argentine air market and would present a great challenge to state-run Aerolineas Argentinas, which holds the highest market share at present.
Chants of “The skies are not for sale” and various instances of tension arose when the protesters climbed the barricades surrounding the theater amid a heavy security presence.
The concerns expressed by the unions – which were transmitted to the government by union leaders inside the theater – include the possibility for destabilizing working conditions and the lack of infrastructure and safety guarantees if more operators enter the market.
“We don’t think that the commercial air market is going to grow without keeping things the same but reducing the size of the main companies that are there now,” Mateo Ferreria, the secretary for the Pilots Union, told EFE, adding that the government is moving forward “rather rapidly” with the arrival of low cost and new companies, in general.
“The Macri government wants to take us to open skies, for there to be free competition, which in principle can sound good to the consumer ... What it’s going to bring is job destabilization, it’s going to degrade the safety conditions and we all know, in aviation, how things end up when not only working conditions but also the training for pilots and safety become degraded,” he said.
Marcelo Uhrich, the press secretary for the Commercial Air Companies Professional and Upper Management Personnel Union, said that “these companies are not going to provide money to the country ... (and) aren’t going to create jobs.”
“We know what they mean, those that are the low cost ones, and really Argentina is not prepared for this. We have a very significant infrastructure deficit, our airspace is not completely covered by radar, and thus filling the sky with aircraft means starting to run risks,” he told EFE.