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Air India employees' strike called off

Last updated on: May 26, 2010 19:17 IST

Air India employees' strike called off

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The striking Air India employees on Wednesday called off their two-day strike which caused which huge loss to the national airline and extreme inconvenience to thousands of passengers.

The employees fell in line once the Delhi High Court cracked the whip and restrained the Air India employees from continuing with their strike.

Meanwhile, the Air India management is said to have terminated the services of 15 striking employees.

Justice Rajiv Sakdher issued notice to the striking employees union and posted the matter for further hearing on July 13. The ex-parte order was passed on a petition moved by National Aviation Company of India (NACIL), which runs the national carrier, alleging that the strike by the employees was illegal when the reconciliation process was going on.

The company submitted that the strike was violative of sections 22 and 24 of the Industrial Disputes Act and it has caused 50 per cent loss in its business since Tuesday.

Employees who continue to resort to strike after the court order stand to be terminated. With such a threat looming large, the employees said that they were keen to comply with the Delhi high court order and also to get back to work.

Earlier, taking exception to the 'illegal and irresponsible' strike by a section of Air India staffers, the government on Wednesday gave a free hand to the airline to take firm measures to restore normalcy in its operations, the disruption of which has caused harassment to travellers.

Thousands of passengers were stranded after the Ai staff resorted to a flash strike in protest against at an alleged ban on them speaking about Saturday's air crash in Mangalore that killed 158 people died.

Over 140 domestic and international Air India flights were cancelled after 20,000 employees struck work.

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Image: Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

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Chaotic scenes were witnessed at Air India counters at several airports as passengers voiced their anger at the disruption of flights. Air India in a statement clarified that its office circular which prevents union leaders from publicly airing their views about the airline's affairs was not a 'gag order' and that a similar order had been upheld earlier by the Bombay high court.

The Air India then on Wednesday moved the Bombay high court seeking a direction restraining its employees from continuing their strike. However, the vacation bench of the High Court, comprising Justices S J Kathawala and R G Ketkar, declined to grant relief in the absence of the other party.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel also said: "Air India management is free to take all appropriate action and I am sure they are going to adequately respond. The management needs to act adequately and firmly."

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Image: The stranded members of India's rugby team at the Mumbai airport.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Air India employees' strike called off

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Issuing a stern warning to the striking employees, he said "Absolutely irresponsible behaviour like this needs strong action...Strong, appropriate and decisive action should be taken...No one can take law into their own hands."

Patel earlier apprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the situation arising out of the strike and briefed the Union Cabinet on the issue.

The Air Corporation Employees Unions and All India Aircraft Engineers Association, which are leading the strike, together claim a membership of about 20,000 employees or about 60 per cent of the entire staff strength.

Talking to reporters after a meeting with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and airline CMD Arvind Jadhav, Patel said the "illegal and absolutely irresponsible" action by a section of employees takes away all the good work done and the process of resurrecting the ailing national carrier to its lost glory.

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Image: Air India aircraft at the Mumbai ariport.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Air India employees' strike called off

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Coming down heavily on the striking employees, he said they had caused inconvenience to thousands of travellers across the country besides hurting the image and finances of the national carrier.

He took exception to the timing of the strike, noting that it happened when the AI was faced with the situation arising out of Saturday's plane crash in Mangalore which claimed 158 lives.

In the aftermath of the tragic accident, "when the entire Air India family should have been one in solidarity and tried its best to help the families of the victims, it was unfortunate that a section of employees resorted to an illegal action without any notice.

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Image: Aircraft at the Mumbai airport.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Air India employees' strike called off

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"How can any management or company function without the cooperation of the employees and the employees themselves being equally responsible," Patel said.

Narrating the sequence of events ahead of the strike, he said the absence of Air India engineers in Mangalore to give technical clearance to a flight, carrying families of the deceased and coffins, led the airline management to take help from engineers of the Kingfisher Airlines.

"This humanitarian gesture was unfortunately taken by the (engineers') union secretary to unfortunate levels and criticised in public. The management naturally asked him to clarify why he made such damaging claims in public," Patel said.

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Image: Anxious passengers at the Mumbai airport.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Air India employees' strike called off

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"Purely on the basis of a show-cause notice (to the union secretary), the engineers along with some sections of other unions resorted to a flash strike."

He said the strike had caused disruption in flights, inconvenience to a large number of passengers, specially when the holiday season was on. "This has affected the image and the finances of the national carrier".

On the same issue, the Air India CMD said the airline's move to get help from Kingfisher engineers available in Mangalore was cleared by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. "We had only sought an explanation (from the union leader), but instead they went on a strike".

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Image: The airport terminal at Mumbai wears a deserted look.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Air India employees' strike called off

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The minister said that the government was trying its best to support Air India during difficult times being faced by the civil aviation sector.

"We have already infused Rs 800 crore and are on the verge of giving another Rs 1,200 crore. Independent directors have been appointed and the airline has implemented several cost-cutting measures without resorting to any cut in salaries or PLI (productivity-linked incentives) even in difficult times," Patel said.

Govt staff allowed to travel by pvt carriers

With summer holiday rush at its peak, government servants were on Wednesday permitted to travel by private carriers for a temporary period due to the flight disruptions caused by the Air India [ Images ] strike.

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Image: Striking Air India employees.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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Government employees, who are allowed to travel only by Air India, would be allowed to travel in private carriers on duty or on Leave Travel Concession.

Travel under LTC scheme peaks during summer holidays.

"In view of the flight disruptions caused by a strike by a section of employees of Air India, entitled government servants are permitted to fly any other carrier, both on duty and on LTC, until resumption of normal services by Air India or further orders, whichever is earlier," an official statement said.


Image: Striking Air India employees raise slogans.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
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