Apex court approves Mumbai and Delhi airport workers’ transfer (Lead)

May 1st, 2009 - 8:51 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday paved the way for mass transfer of over 3,000 workers of Delhi and Mumbai international airports outside the metropolises following privatisation of the two airports, if they do not want to work for private firms taking over the airports.
A bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal approved the mass transfer, dismissing a lawsuit by around 1,600 of Mumbai airport workers challenging the Airports Authority of India’s decision to transfer its over 3,000 workers outside Delhi and Mumbai after they refused to join the private firms which took over the airports.

Significantly enough, the bench dismissed the lawsuit “in limini” or at pre-admission stage itself, conveying the impression that the airport workers may be on a very weak wicket in both refusing job offers to them by the private firms and also insisting that they should not be transferred out of Delhi and Mumbai, where AAI has no place to employ them.

The bench, which also included Justice G.S. Singhvi, though, dismissed the airport workers’ lawsuits only after giving them an elaborate and sympathetic hearing spread over two days.

The AAI had issued transfer orders after the airport workers refusal to join the GMR-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) and the GVK-led Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL), which have taken over the operations of the two airports after their privatisation in 2006.

Appearing for Mumbai airport workers, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves and Indira Jaisingh pointed out to the court that around 3,000 out of over 4,000 AAI employees at Delhi and Mumbai airports faces transfer orders to non-descript, smaller airports, where they fear becoming useless and eventually jobless owing to lack of the work matching their job profile, expertise and experience at those smaller airports.

They told the court they were loath to join the private firms as they did not provide the same level of job security and other pay and perks as enjoyed by them as AAI employees.

The two counsel argued before the court that the mass transfer of over 3,000 airport workers outside Delhi and Mumbai was a precursor to their retrenchment by the government.

Alleging that the management was forcing the employees to either accept voluntary retirement scheme or face transfer as both the airports were privatised, the counsel said the posting at new places, which they have been offered, is basically a ploy to make them sit idle and lose their respect of proper employment.

He said it was a government’s ploy to retrench them, to which Solicitor General Goolam E. Vahanvati sought to assure the court that it was not a retrenchment and merely a transfer.

Vahanvati said that AAI had tried its best to absorb maximum number of its Delhi and Mumbai arport employee in the two metropolises itself, but it was not feasible to absorb any more of them here as it is no longer operating the airports in the two metropolises.

He said even parliament, in its debate before the privatisation of the two airports, had taken care of the workers’ fears, and accordingly, in its privatisation agreement of the airports, the government had stipulated conditions that the private firm, while re-employing the government employees, will not hire them at reduced salary or ranks.

Vahanvati as well as senior counsel Harish salve, appearing for MIAL, argued that the workers appear to be opposed to the process of privatisation of the two airports per se, which cannot be reversed.

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