The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Pilots strike in Argentina, stranding thousands of passengers

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina's government stepped in to halt a brief pilot's strike that stranded thousands of passengers Tuesday in the country's capital.

More than 30 international and local flights by state-run Aerolineas Argentinas and Austral were cancelled or delayed, including routes to cities such as Miami, Caracas and Bogota.

The Labor Ministry then ordered the two sides to accept mediation, and union leaders said operations would soon be back to normal.

The secretary-general off the Association of Air Line Pilots, Pablo Biro, said the pilots were seeking a 35 per cent pay raise to keep up with inflation and elimination of some taxes.

Aerolineas Argentinas issued a statement calling the strike "untimely, disproportionate and unreasonable" because the pilots' contract extends through the end of September.

"In an act of enormous irresponsibility, this group of workers, privileged with high salaries and luxurious working conditions, not only gravely harm the passengers but also put at risk the sustained process of recovery of our flag carrier," it said, referring the company's efforts to climb out of financial difficulties.

The airline said pilots earn gross salaries of up to nearly $11,000 a month. The union, however, said co-pilots earn less than $2,400 a month.

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