Government bans strike across all airports, unions adamant

March 11th, 2008 - 11:01 pm ICT by admin  

(Roundup)

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) The government Tuesday invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) at the Delhi airport after employees vowed to go on strike at all 127 airports across the country from midnight to protest the closure of the existing airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad. Civil aviation ministry officials said the ESMA has been invoked and protesting employees were asked not to discontinue their work at the airports.

“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 said.

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

Around 20,000 employees, involved in all airport-related work, including maintenance, cleanliness and handling of baggage trolleys, are expected to join the protest.

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.

Since the 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.

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.

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.

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