Worker-run airline about to start in Uruguay

The Uruguayan national trade union federation PIT-CNT [en] has come out in support of the new Alas Uruguay airline by investing union resources into the project after the airline's launch suffered num

Worker-run airline about to start in Uruguay

The Uruguayan national trade union federation PIT-CNT [en] has come out in support of the new Alas Uruguay airline by investing union resources into the project after the airline’s launch suffered numerous setbacks.

The PIT-CNT (Intersyndical Plenary of Workers–National Convention of Workers) has shown its solidarity with Alas Uruguay due to its status as an autonomously administered company consisting of ex-workers of the previously state owned airline PLUNA [en]. With the Uruguayan government no longer able to meet the airline’s growing debts, Pluna was liquidated in mid-2012 after 76 years of service.

However, in November of this year the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the law allowing for the liquidation of Pluna, which saw seven of the its aeroplanes handed over to trustees and special treatment awarded to certain creditors, was unconstitutional. As a result, Alas Uruguay’s plan to buy three of the seven Bombardier planes held by trustees has returned to Earth with a resounding thud after the court’s ruling led to the suspension of a previously approved loan by the development fund FONDES.

As Alas Uruguay officially state on the website of Portal de Américas in the article “Alas Uruguay rompe el silencio” [Alas Uruguay break the silence], this has delayed the awarding of mandatory certificates from the National Civil Aviation and Aviation Infrastructure Directorate which could further hinder the airline’s launch and leave workers unable to meet the numerous financial commitments made in recent months.

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Maintenance of the aeroplanes has been carried out by ex-employees of Pluna with the aim of keeping them operative as even a short break in upkeep leads to the withdrawal of airworthiness certificates. This would result in an immediate fall in their sale price.

In addition to the failed attempt to purchase the three aircraft, Alas Uruguay has already registered as a Public Limited Company having incorporated its managerial staff. According to statements made by the company, office spaces have already been let, bank accounts have been opened, documents have been submitted for the insurance of aircraft (including to Uruguay’s state owned insurance company), websites have been designed and telephone services put in place. Furthermore, the General Manager recently made a presentation before an International Forum on aviation and preliminary talks were underway with national and international service providers.

One particularly worrying detail, however, is that by not finalising the creation a new airline, the government has to continue to pay workers unemployment benefit for a period of two years in order to cover expenses and loss of income. Estimates suggest that this could end up costing the government in excess of US $20 million without any chance of the sum being recovered.

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