The departure of LATAM Argentina: without offices, pilots or planes

The LATAM Argentina airline is still unable to move five of its Airbus A320 aircraft from the Metropolitan Airport, where expansion works will begin next week, both on the runway and in the passenger terminal. The planes are parked inside the airport or in the hangar that LATAM built there more than a decade ago. If they do not take off this week to some other destination, they must remain forcibly during the four months that the work is scheduled to last.

This retention of the planes is part of the resistance of the aeronautical unions, which refuse to take them off to the airports of Córdoba and Ezeiza, as requested by LATAM. The union move aims to force a negotiation with the Chilean and Brazilian capital company to pay double compensation to employees who are still linked.

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In mid-June, LATAM announced the closure of its local subsidiary and requested the opening of a crisis prevention procedure, to dismiss its 1,715 employees. After a series of hearings, both with the company and with the aeronautical unions, the Ministry of Labor denied the opening of the PPC. The company announced that it will appeal the decision administratively, to the portfolio headed by Claudio Moroni.

But in fact, the employees who are still pending this negotiation are already less than half of those who were there a month ago. Some 900 have already disengaged through agreements from the voluntary retirement program that the company reopened after announcing the closure of its subsidiary. A fact not less: LATAM Argentina practically no longer has pilots: out of 220 that it had on its payroll last month, 190 have already taken the voluntary retirement.

As for the planes, it is a potentially costly negotiation garment for the Argentine State. It happens that none of these aircraft are owned by LATAM, but belong to international financial companies, specialized in aircraft rental under the figure of “leasing”. This is a common modality in all airlines and, in fact, most of the Airlines aircraft are also on leasing.

But in the case of the LATAM Airbus, although the company made some investments in recent years, it is also a very old fleet, with an average age of almost 20 years, with an almost zero market value, at a time in which a drastic reduction of all the fleets in the world is expected and, therefore, an oversupply of used aircraft.

According to the specialized site Planepotters.net, the Airbus A-320 held at Aeroparque are those with the LV-BFO registration, which are 17.8 years old. They are followed by those with LV-BFY (17.9 years), LV-BHU (19.2 years), LV-CQS (19.1 years) and, the “newer” one, the Airbus A320 LV-GUS registration, with 12.1 years. Other aircraft of the company are stationed in Ezeiza and several have already been returned to their headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

If LATAM ends up not complying with the return of the planes held at Aeroparque, paradoxically it could be a great business for the “lessors”, since they would be given the right to initiate legal actions that would end up falling to the Argentine State. “That would be, by far, a much better business than the scrapping destination that awaits these aircraft,” said a source from a union that in fact ceased to exist: the Union of Pilots Aviators of LATAM (UPAL).

On Saturday, company employees and union representatives demonstrated, once again, at the door of the Aeroparque to support some 30 employees who have camped in the LATAM hangar since July 13. With the slogan “#no extortion”, the unions claim double compensation. The same Saturday, in radio statements, Minister Moroni said that “the administrative stage is closed” and that what follows for LATAM and its employees “are individual decisions.”

Legally, what governs is a double compensation scheme in force since mid-December, which the Government extended again. But from the company they said that they are going to insist, through an administrative appeal, that the cause of “force majeure” be recognized to apply Article 247 of the Labor Law, which allows paying 50% compensation.

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