Talks fail to end Seoul pilots' strike

Asiana Airlines executives and striking pilots have failed to end a three-week long walkout in talks that had raised hopes for a conclusion to South Korea's worst-ever aviation strike after the government softened a threat to use emergency powers to halt it.

    Asiana is the country's No 2 carrier after rival Korean Air

    Asiana spokesman Oh Kyung-keun said on Monday that a marathon meeting that lasted into the early hours of Monday failed to achieve an agreement. He said Asiana President CB Park and other top executives would meet later on Monday to decide what to do next.


    The government last week had warned it was prepared to end the walkout if no conclusion was reached over the weekend. But the Labour Ministry softened its tone on Sunday, saying that while it expected Asiana and the union would reach an agreement it remained prepared to step in.


    No further talks were scheduled on Monday between the pilots and management, Asiana's Oh said.


    "It's a dangerous situation," he added.


    Pilots' demands


    The pilots' demands include fewer flying hours, more say in management decisions and a higher retirement age. Both sides have offered concessions, but not enough to end the walkout, now in its 23rd day.


    "It's a dangerous situation" 

    Oh Kyung-keun,
    Ariana's spokesman

    If the government intervenes, Asiana's union would have to immediately stop the strike for 30 days - a step used in sectors considered critical to the national economy.


    The government has only invoked such powers twice: In 1993 during unrest at Hyundai Motor Co, and in 1969 at Korea Shipbuilding Corp.


    For several days, Asiana President C.B. Park and other top executives have been trying to persuade union officials to end the strike, holding talks in a mountainous area in central South Korea where the pilots have established a base.


    Costly strike


    The talks have focused on so-called "deadhead" hours, the time spent travelling by air to locations from where pilots are scheduled to fly aircraft.


    Asiana's  losses from the strike
    totalled $198 milion till Sunday

    The pilots want that time to be counted as part of their total flying hours.


    Asiana is the country's No. 2 carrier after rival Korean Air. Asiana's international destinations include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bangkok, New Delhi, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Germany, Sydney, Australia and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.


    The strike, which began on 17 July, has been costly for Asiana, forcing it to cancel all its cargo flights, over 1800 domestic flights and more than 100 international passenger flights during the peak summer travel season.


    The airline said on Sunday it was canceling a total of 314 international flights for the entire month of August, including service to Frankfurt, on 15 August, its first to Europe so far.


    Asiana said its losses from the strike totaled $198 million till Sunday. Iincluding losses to travel agencies and exporters, the figure comes to $348 million, the airline said. So far, 450,000 passengers have been affected, Asiana added. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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