UPDATE 2-Argentina orders striking LAN pilots back to work, flights canceled

jueves 14 de enero de 2016 10:50 GYT
 

(Recasts with government order for negotiations)

BUENOS AIRES Jan 14 (Reuters) - Argentina's government said it had ordered pilots from the Argentine unit of LATAM Airlines back to work and for wage negotiations to resume after their walkout on Thursday disrupted the travel plans of hundreds of passengers.

The pilots went on an impromptu strike after wage hike negotiations with the airline collapsed, forcing the cancellation or delay of flights out of the capital's Ezeiza International Airport as well as the city's domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery.

A Reuters correspondent traveling to Brazil was told his flight had been canceled and that there was no room on other flights on Thursday due to heavy bookings in the holiday period.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Labour confirmed the order for mandatory talks.

Labor relations are touchy in Argentina, where muscular trade unions routinely clash with private companies and the government over the scale of pay rises.

The strike is a sign of what is to come for President Mauricio Macri, who took office on Dec. 10 and days later oversaw the lifting of capital controls that led to a sharp devaluation of the peso currency.

LAN Argentina's pilots are members of Argentina's Association of Airline Pilots, which belongs to the Argentine Federation of Aeronautic Personnel (FAPA). Officials at both were unavailable to comment.

On Tuesday, FAPA released a statement saying the 27.5 percent pay increase agreed in September preceded the near 30 percent devaluation. It said a new accord was needed given "the devaluation's negative impact on salaries such as the high inflation which continued in the last month of the year."

Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay on Wednesday said consumer prices rose 28 percent, much higher than the forecasts of the previous government which economists said routinely manipulated economic data. (Reporting by Richard Lough and Jorge Otaola; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Trott)