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Mexico Biggest Airline Faces Strike

June 1, 1998

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A flight attendants union broke off negotiations with Mexico’s biggest airline on Sunday, saying it would go on strike over working conditions, benefits and salaries.

The strike, which was to begin at midnight, would idle the majority of Aeromexico’s 58 airplanes, which make nearly 300 flights a day worldwide. The airline said it would try to reroute passengers.

Aeromexico asked the flight attendants to postpone their strike for a week to continue negotiating. But the union _ which represents 1,033 flight attendants, 90 percent of them women _ said the company wasn’t acquiescing and voted Sunday to go ahead with the strike unless there was a last-minute breakthrough.

``The company doesn’t want to continue negotiating,″ said Lizette Clavel, press secretary for the Unionized Association of Flight Attendants. ``We’re treated as third-class workers.″

The difference over salaries was small: Flight attendants said they want a 19 percent raise while Aeromexico said it was offering 18 percent. The real differences were over benefits and working conditions.

Aeromexico wants to increase each shift by two hours and reduce by two hours the time between shifts, which currently range from eight to 14 hours.

The flight attendants want a pension plan, which they don’t currently have, better health benefits and guarantees that flight crews will be complete. The union says many Aeromexico flights take off with fewer than the normal number of flight attendants.

Alfonso Pasquel Barcenas, general director of Aeromexico, said agreeing to the union’s demands would cripple the company.

``This would prevent us from having the capital we need to buy planes and to expand,″ he said. ``We can’t put into risk our viability as a profitable company.″

He called the flight attendants’ demands ``out of the range of other airlines,″ and described the airline’s offer as ``very generous.″

If the strike went ahead, he said, Aeromexico would reroute passengers on 12 other airlines, which he said he hoped could take up to 95 percent of the passengers.

He also said the government could decide to take over operations of the airline, putting in its own people to keep flights in the air.

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