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  • Executive director of Avianca, Hernan Rincon, during a press conference in Bogota.

    Executive director of Avianca, Hernan Rincon, during a press conference in Bogota. | Photo: EFE

Colombia's largest airline canceled hundreds of flights and believes the strike could affect 22,000 passengers.

Some 700 pilots in Colombia are continuing their strike to demand better wages and that their airline addresses the fatigue and lack of sleep by workers.

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Hundreds of pilots from Avianca, Colombia's largest airline, have taken to the streets to protest for the second night in a row. They were outside the building of the Labor Ministry in northern Bogota.

Since the strike began on Monday, they have demanded equal pay, better working conditions and that union members not be persecuted by authorities, said the workers of the Colombian Association of Civil Aviators, ACDAC.

On Tuesday, Avianca canceled 110 flights, including two international routes, and the managing team said the strike could affect 22,000 passengers inside the country.

The union said that as national workers, they don't receive the same wages as international workers, alleging others can win up to 20 percent more than those flying inside Colombia.

"There are salaries of US$5,000 and others of more than US$10,000," captain Jaime Hernandez told El Pais. "The disadvantaged are the Colombian pilots, why is there such discrimination? We want the same rights."  

Avianca said in a statement that the wage increase request is "exaggerated".

The workers have also denounced extended working hours, which they say can go up to twelve hours in a row.

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"They call us for a flight and we end up coming home eight days later," Hernandez said. "We fly when they want, we need order and guarantees to control fatigue."

Hernan Rincon, executive director of Avianca, said they have given "fair" wages.

"They have already increased their salary by 12 percent at the beginning of the year and now they ask for 60 percent more, they also want us to take care of their personal tax obligations and give them some extra money for teleworking and other things," Rincon said during a press conference.

The pilots announced that they will continue the strike until an agreement is reached.

"The strike was the only alternative to the persistent policy of discrimination and union persecution," the ACDAC said in a statement.

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