SANTIAGO – Some 3,800 employees of the government agency that provides operational support for civil aviation in Chile went on strike Tuesday, grounding 400 scheduled flights and roughly 70,000 travelers.
The labor action affecting the Civil Aviation Directorate, or DGAC, began at midnight Monday amid last-minute negotiations between union leaders and government representatives.
“We reiterate our advice to travelers not to go to the airports because there will be no flights,” DGAC’s chief, air force Gen. Maximiliano Larraechea, told a news conference.
Calling civil aviation a “strategic service,” Economy Minister Luis Felipe Cespedes said the strike was illegal.
DGAC employees accommodated the landing of flights that were already in the air at the start of the strike, but barred takeoffs, though union leaders said they would ensure the safe operation of emergency flights.
The main bone of contention is the union’s demand that DGAC employees be allowed to shift from privately managed pensions to coverage under the defense ministry’s Capredena system.
Failure to resolve the impasse could lead to a longer work stoppage, union president Jose Perez said.
“We have listened to our rank and file, they are the ones who give the orders,” he said. “We have the obligation to heed what they say and there is unhappiness, yet they are in favor of dialogue, but with precision.”
Armed Forces Undersecretary Gabriel Gaspar said that DGAC has made an effort to maintain the dialogue with employees “to open the path toward an understanding.”
“Unfortunately, this has not been possible,” Gaspar told reporters. “However, we hope to make progress toward an agreement and we think that it is perfectly possible.”