Airport employees to strike work from midnight

March 12th, 2008 - 12:49 am ICT by admin  

(Intro Roundup)

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) The government braced for a strike by airport employees across the country from midnight Tuesday and warned workers against going ahead with the strike to demand continuation of existing services at the Bangalore and Hyderabad airports. Around 20,000 employees, involved in all airport-related work, including maintenance, cleanliness and handling of baggage trolleys, are expected to join the protest.

Since the Airports Authority of India (AAI) manages 127 airports across the country, it is feared that passengers could face a harrowing time due to delay in flight movements.

The strike is likely to have immediate effect as a large number of international flights take off in the early hours from various airports around the country.

The government Tuesday invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) at the Delhi airport.

“We will invoke more stiffer act if the employees halt work. Through a legal notice issued by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the unions, it has been clearly advised not to violate Delhi High Court orders that had banned them from going for strike,” said K.N. Srivastava, joint secretary at the ministry.

M.K. Ghoshal, a spokesman of the Airports Authority Employees Joint Forum, told IANS that the workers’ talks with the AAI management had failed again on Tuesday.

“We are firm in our decision to launch an indefinite ‘non-cooperation movement’ from Tuesday midnight if the government doesn’t roll back its decision to close down the (existing) Bangalore and Hyderabad airports,” said Ghoshal.

A civil aviation ministry spokesman told IANS that there were no talks between the government and the employees union Tuesday.

AAI officials refused to comment on the arrangements, if any, they were making to avoid inconvenience to passengers.

However, officials said around 500 Indian Air Force personnel were deployed at 21 civilian airports.

Officials at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport said they had sufficient resources and manpower to handle any situation.

Two greenfield airports in the two southern metros are ready to become operational and the government will close down operations at the existing airports there in accordance with a contract with the private developers of the new airports.

“We will oblige the contracts,” Srivastava added.

The forum decided to go on a nationwide strike after their talks with Civil Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla failed late Monday.

Meanwhile, ministry officials said the inauguration of the Bangalore airport was delayed for four weeks due to safety concerns and poor road connectivity between it and the city centre. The airport was scheduled to start operations March 30.

They the new airport at Hyderabad city would commence operations March 14, as per schedule.

Meanwhile, all AAI employees at the Begumpet airport in Hyderabad decided to join the nationwide strike.

The airport at Begumpet in the heart of the city is to be closed down once the new international airport at Shamshabad becomes operational March 16.

None of the 270 AAI employees will attend their ground handling and emergency duties from midnight to demand that the central government pull out of an agreement with the GMR-led consortium, which stipulates that the existing airport will shut all operations once the greenfield airport becomes operational at Shamshabad, about 35 km from Begumpet.

“We will continue the strike till the government accepts our demand,” V.S. Gupta, secretary of the AAI employees union, told IANS.

The Ahmedabad Airport Authority Employees Union said that their group C and D employees will go on indefinite ‘non-cooperation’ stir from midnight.

Speaking to IANS late in the evening, union assistant secretary D.B. Raval said that the non-cooperation movement comes in the backdrop of “infructuous” parleys with Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

Raval said that the Ahmedabad union has 14 sets of demand since 1995. Denying it was strike and calling it a “non-cooperation” movement, he said C& D employees numbering 180 out of an all-India employee strength of 28,000 would begin their non-cooperation movement from tonight.

However, Airports Authority of India (AAI) claimed that the strike would not affect flight operations at the country’s major airports.

Speaking to IANS at Bangalore, AAI general manager B.R. Sena said the strike was unlikely to affect the Bangalore airport as the company staffs were prepared to ensure normalcy.

“There will be little impact of the strike at the Bangalore airport, as the vital air traffic control (ATC) operations are manned by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) staff and the ground support services are handled by various airlines,” Sena told IANS Tuesday.

As the city airport is owned and run by HAL, related activities and facilities are looked after by its staff and agencies hired by the defence behemoth.

Of the 180 AAI employees at the city airport, 120 are staff and 60 are officers.

Dinesh Kumar, director of Chennai Airport told IANS that none of the airlines had cancelled its flights from Chennai due to the strike.

“We will fall back to our contingency plans to see that the airport activities are maintained at normal levels by manning all the posts,” said Dinesh Kumar, director of Chennai Airport told IANS.

It is learnt that around 500 management staff would be pressed into service to maintain normalcy at the airport.

Ahmedabad airport officials also claimed that they were prepared to deal with the strike. “We will invoke, in case of strike, our contingency plan and operations will be perfectly normal,” B.P. Bhagat, airport director, told IANS.

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