Argentina's airline mechanics union APTA, the pilots union APLA and the Cabin Attendants' Association ATCPEA have agreed to support a general transport sector strike scheduled for tomorrow, which could result in major disruptions in Argentina's air services.
The strike was organised by the umbrella union CGT and started by ground transport workers but the airline unions, particularly those at state-owned flag carrier Aerolineas Argentinas, have added their claims to an already complex labour situation linked to an escalating political power struggle.
Tomorrow's work action follows recent flight disruptions at Buenos Aires' downtown Aeroparque airport when Argentina's air traffic control personnel went on strike, The controllers are calling for the government to reverse a November decision to place the airline back under military control, after a series of labour actions wreaked havoc on flights in late 2011.
The controllers were represented by APTA while under civilian control.
"We want air traffic controllers [to] return from military to civilian control and we require a new and better balance in the decision-making process in labour relevant matters in Aerolineas Argentinas. Neither [Aerolineas president Mariano Recalde] nor the ministry has accepted negotiating this with us so far," says APTA's leader Ricardo Cirielli. He adds that the union's claims are part of what "the whole CGT is now fighting for".
Aerolíneas Argentinas and its domestic subsidiary Austral have formed the battleground for repeated power struggles among the different unions. Sustained strikes forced Aerolineas Argentinas into bankruptcy in 2001 and a weeks-long, nearly fatal, grounding.
A political agreement struck between Argentina and the Spanish government then, which resulted in Spain investing more than $600 million into Aerolineas, revived the airline. Spain's Marsans travel group bought the carrier, which was re-nationalised by Argentina in 2009.