(In first sentence corrects description of the union to say "representing maintenance and ground support staff," not "representing cabin crews")
SANTIAGO, April 2 (Reuters) - The union representing maintenance and ground support staff at LATAM Airlines' Chilean unit have asked for government mediation in contract talks, pushing back the threat of a strike at the region's largest carrier to late this week from as early as Monday.
The 881-member union at LAN Express, which mostly covers routes within Chile and also has some flights to other South American destinations, rejected LATAM's contract offer earlier this week and had set a strike date for April 6 if a deal was not reached by then.
With the government-mediated talks, the threat of a strike now has been pushed back to the weekend of April 11-12.
The union is seeking a 15 percent salary increase, plus better working conditions and benefits.
"We don't want to go on strike but the company is pushing us into that corner," union general secretary Eric Arce told Reuters.
Arce said that by extending the negotiations a potential strike would fall on a weekend, leaving LATAM with little room to maneuver.
LATAM was formed in mid-2012 when Chile's flagship LAN took over Brazil's TAM. It has domestic operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru. (Reporting by Antonio de la Jara; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Peter Galloway)