20 June 2014 – The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) LATAM network reports that it is hearing of concerns from passengers due to fly on LAN and TAM planes during a strike expected to begin in Peru on 26 June. Unions report that more than 200 mechanics – over 70 per cent of all LAN Peru mechanics – will not be certifying airplane flights during the strike, which is expected to affect operations across Latin America, including during the World Cup.
LAN Peru aviation mechanics are responsible for the security of the flights of LAN and TAM Airlines (the LATAM Airline Group), and their function is fundamental to the maintenance of the aircraft and the safety of flights.
On 26 and 27 June a strike is likely to take place, called by the SITALANPE trade union, which represents 70 per cent of all those mechanics. This is expected to result in cancellations and delays across the region. The mechanics are unequivocal: their labor is not replaceable because they are certified to work on the aircraft. “We are the ones that review the planes each time that they land and if we do not sign the logbook of the aircraft, they do not leave. Without our approval, no plane will be able to fly and therefore the whole company will stop, ” explained Juan Carlos Talavera, a LAN Peru aviation mechanic and press secretary of SITALANPE.
Lima, Peru, is the central hub for maintenance work in the holding company that includes both the LAN and TAM Airlines. The Peruvian mechanics maintain the cargo and passenger aircraft for LAN Argentina, LAN Chile, LAN Ecuador, LAN Peru, and TAM and LAN Cargo.
Dario Castillo Alfaro, the leader of the LAN Chile mechanics’ union, commented: “Our mechanics’ union is supporting the Peruvian workers and is ready to express its solidarity and support. As Chileans, we are depending on our Peruvian co-workers to protect the aviation sector in Latin America from the kind of cost cutting in operations that threatens the security of our passengers. As LAN and TAM workers we know that on behalf of passengers and aviation workers, it is our obligation to inform customers of potential problems and risks. The future of aviation in South America is being threatened by the company’s refusal to negotiate in Peru and Argentina.”
The ITF LATAM Network, which represents unions working across the airlines, has been assisting passengers with information about possible delays, in particular via the Facebook pageswww.facebook.com/pages/Latam-Network-ITF/311133405678274(in English) and www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008053089507&fref=ts&ref=br_tf (in Spanish). Among the passengers spoken to by its members was Sally McManus, a trade unionist from Sydney, Australia, who is visiting Brazil for the World Cup. She told them: “I don’t want to fly in TAM or LAN Airlines. I had so many problems with TAM because they changed my flight three times and their toll free number did not work in Australia. But the worst thing is that I do not think that it is secure to fly when there is an aviation mechanics’ strike and the company is using temporary mechanics without experience in the company. Now I am with GOL, because TAM is too dangerous with the mechanics’ strike and there are too many delays and cancellations. I want to enjoy the World Cup!”
LAN Peru aviation mechanics, who ensure the safety of LAN and TAM planes, say that they have not received a salary increase in over 10 years and are paid half of what Chileans and Argentineans receive for doing the same work in the same company. Rather than resolve this problem, they report, the company has terminated seven mechanics, given forced leave time to their experienced technicians and hired temporary mechanics without experience in the company.
Meanwhile, flight attendants at LAN Argentina have been working without a legal collective bargaining agreement since the start of the Argentinean subsidiary in 2005. Argentinian aviation workers report that, prior to the 2014 World Cup, TAM Airlines fired pilots and cabin crews and cut routes in Brazil in order to increase profits. This has generated worries that they will not be prepared for the avalanche of visitors to Brazil. Some 80 percent of TAM’s management are reportedly new. Cabin crew members point out that if they do not have decent working conditions and adequate rest their ability to carry out their vital safety functions may be impaired.
The worry is now the company’s inability to provide a stable working environment could lead to unnecessary delays and cancellations of flights, and may even put the high standard of operational safety at risk.
LAN Peru is the central hub for mechanical work on LAN and TAM, while attendants from LAN Argentina fly daily to Miami, Punta Cana, San Paulo, Lima and Santiago. Many of the increased LAN and TAM flights to Brazil for the World Cup have been routed through Argentina.