M A I N   N E W S

AI limps back to normalcy
n 42 more employees sacked
n Fresh strike call from June 12
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

n The BJP terms the action against the union and its leaders a “draconian step”
n The CPM accuses Civil Aviation Minister of being responsible for the state of affairs in Air India

New Delhi, May 27
The Air India employees’ strike has ended and air operations are limping back to normalcy, but all is still not well with Air India. The employees’ strike, which was smashed to bits by the government’s tough talk and an order by the Delhi High Court yesterday, has now acquired political hues.

On a day the government issued a statement saying that Air India had dismissed 42 and suspended 17 employees and threatened that more such orders would follow, the two main Opposition parties- Left and BJP-jumped in the fray, questioning the government on its “tough stand”.

A union leader indicated that the strike could be called again. The Air Corporation Employees' Union (ACEU), which spearheaded the two-day employees’ strike, has threatened another such action while charging the management with conspiring to instigate trouble and later declare a lockout in the national carrier.

ACEU General Secretary J B Kadiyan was quoted as saying that “Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav is carrying out dictatorship. He is bent on destroying the airline. He is trying to instigate the workers to go for action and then declare a lockout on that pretext”.

“This is a conspiracy," he said, adding that the engineers’ union had served another strike notice from June 12.

The CPM accused Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel of being responsible for the state of affairs in Air India.

The leading Left party, well known for trade union activism, demanded immediate revocation of the order to de-recognise the unions and withdrawal of action against union leaders whose services have either been suspended or terminated by the management after the strike that led to over 100 flights cancellation and resultant financial losses of over Rs 12 crore to the cash-strapped national carrier.

Expressing grave concern at the “vindictive attitude” of the management to terminate services of union activists “in spite of withdrawal of strike after discussion with Chief Labour Commissioner (Central)”, the CPM politburo said NACIL had arbitrarily withdrawn recognition of ACEU without assigning any reason.

The CPM statement alleged that Air India chairman Arvind Jadhav had been “refusing to have any dialogue” with employees. The management should immediately start negotiations with the unions to improve services of Air India and address legitimate grievances of employees, it said.

The BJP termed the action against the union and its leaders a “draconian step” and sought an answer from the government on its “game plan” by heading into a direct confrontation with a “legitimate union”. BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy told The Tribune that his party was “intrigued by the government action”.

“The BJP would like to know the game plan of the government. By heading for a confrontation with the legitimate union do they have design of shutting down the company? The action of the government would add to the chaos to the prevailing situation in Air India. The BJP would like to seek as categorical answer and the reason that has prompted them to take such a draconian step,” he said. The strike threw the airline completely off gear, forcing around 100 cancellations, leaving thousands of passengers stranded across the country.

The management, backed by the government wanting to send a clear message for those contemplating any such action in the future, came down had on leaders and Unions.

The erstwhile ACEU and the All-India Aircraft Engineers' Association (AIAEA) have been de-recognised by the management of the National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL)-the holding company of Air India-and their offices sealed NACIL

The strike was called off yesterday after the Delhi High Court restrained the agitating employees from continuing the stir and the government, giving a free hand to the management to deal with them.

In Mumbai ACEU leader Dinakar Reddy also said that the strike could be called again. “Union offices all over India have been sealed. Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav is like Hitler and is supporting private operations. We are waiting for an official communication on termination. We can go back on strike.”

Claiming that the management initiated disciplinary proceedings immediately after employees signed the conciliation proceedings last evening, Kadiyan claimed employees who did not join the strike were also served termination notices. "We withdrew our strike on a personal appeal by Chief Labour Commissioner S K Mukhopadhyay and in the interest of the company," he said, adding that all offices of ACEU and AIAEA were sealed through the night. He claimed that management representatives had tampered with our records. “How shall we fight the court battle when we don't have any record,” he questioned.

Invites unions for talks

Air India also invited its employees unions for talks as it endeavoured to normalise operations after the wildcat strike that threw the national carrier's flight schedules completely in disarray.

The invitation for talks came within hours of the airlines derecognising two powerful employees unions- Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU) and All India Aircraft Engineers Association (AIAEA)- and sealing their offices.

The carrier accused the two unions of indulging in regular violations of the Code of Discipline and of the settlements. It said the management would meet principal officers of all unions on June 1 at the corporate headquarters in Mumbai.





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