Unions gain in Aerolineas reshuffle

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The naming of Mariano Recalde as president and director general of Aerolineas Argentinas could pave the way for closer co-operation between the government, management and its rambunctious labour unions.

Recalde, a 37-year-old Buenos Aires labour lawyer, has close ties to the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. While some local media see his appointment as a "consolation prize" after losing in recent elections, this ignores the influence of the airline unions. They have been restless since June elections, which Kirchner's government almost lost. Following the vote, Ricardo Jaime was forced to resign as transport minister. Because Jaime had been closely involved in the renationalisation of Aerolineas, a move the unions endorse, they were upset by his departure.

APLA, the union that represents Aerolineas pilots, launched a public campaign critical of Julio Alak, then president and director general of Aerolineas. Alak was later named minister of justice, and succeeded by Recalde. The latter has been an advisor to several unions, while his father is legal advisor for the CGT union group that APLA recently joined.

"For many years the problems at Aerolineas seem to have been the power struggles between management and the unions," says Buenos Aires-based Consultair president Patricio Seidel. "Now the CEO is undoubtedly close to the unions, the airline has a unique chance to turn around. "But he says fixing Aerolineas will not be easy. "The government, as new owners, will have to invest in badly-needed new aircraft. And the unions will have to co-operate by being more flexible. "Marsans Group, which disputes the renationalisation and still claims to be its majority owner, has complained of not being consulted over the appointment.