Efforts underway to prevent airport staff strike

February 25th, 2008 - 9:26 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) An estimated 18,000 employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) working at 135 airports across the country, were in talks with authorities through their unions on their proposed strike from Monday midnight. The unions are demanding higher wages and better working conditions.

“Our agitation is also in protest over the ongoing privatisation of airports by the AAI,” national assistant general secretary of Airports Authority Employees Union (AAEU) Dilip Gujjar told IANS from Mumbai.

“We are still having a meeting with government officials in Delhi, where demands and needs would be discussed,” he said. Senior AAEU leaders were holding a second round of talks with officials at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan here.

Officials at the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), the private sector consortium that operates the airport in the national capital, said contingency plans were ready to prevent disruptions of air traffic.

Similar plans were afoot in Mumbai, the only other airport that is currently under private management, though with AAI as one of the stakeholders.

“For emergency services, we will call armed personnel and for housekeeping we have outsourced the work to private agencies,” a Mumbai International Airport Ltd spokesperson told IANS.

“We don’t see any problem with air traffic management since it is covered under the Essential Services Management Act (ESMA). The government can evoke its provisions to ensure smooth passage for passengers,” a spokesperson for DIAL added.

The union was also protesting the development of new airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore by private players, which would eventually result in the closure of existing ones run by the airports authority.

“In Delhi and Mumbai, where government has privatised the airports, employees are being compelled to join the private consortium. This is not acceptable to us,” Gujjar said.

Domestic carriers ferry 43.29 million passengers per annum, of which Delhi and Mumbai account for the maximum share of around 60 percent among all airports in the country.

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