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Updated: May 28, 2010 01:09 IST

Two Air India unions de-recognised, offices sealed

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Stranded passengers at Lucknow. Air India, on Thursday, said they will need at least three days to clear the backlog of passengers caused by the strike. File Photo: PTI
Stranded passengers at Lucknow. Air India, on Thursday, said they will need at least three days to clear the backlog of passengers caused by the strike. File Photo: PTI

Hours after crushing the two-day old strike by Air India employees, the state-owned airline de-recognised two major trade unions and sealed their offices across the country.

The airline gradually restored normalcy since morning though 25 flights were cancelled for the day.

Erstwhile Indian Airlines’ union Air Corporation Employees’ Union (ACEU) and All India Aircraft Engineers’ Association (AIAEA) have been de-recognised by the management of National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) and their offices have also been sealed, NACIL sources said on Thursday. NACIL is the holding company of Air India.

Besides terminating the services of 17 office-bearers of the two Unions last night, the airline suspended 15 engineers.

More dismissals and suspensions are likely to follow with highly-placed sources indicating that a total of upto 100 employees would face action.

“The de—recognition order came in last night and their offices have also been sealed,” the sources said, as the airline cracked down on the Union leaders.

Dinkar Shetty, a leader of the ACEU, said they were waiting for a formal communication from the management regarding termination and suspension before deciding on the future course of action.

ACEU and AIAEA had gone on a flash-strike on Tuesday to protest a ‘gag order’ directing the office-bearers of NACIL trade union to refrain from making public statements and harming the image of the company.

The Unions were demanding immediate withdrawal of the ’gag order’ But the Management claimed there was only a general circular which has been upheld by the Mumbai High Court and that there was no such ‘gag order.’

The strike led to cancellation of 130 flights affecting 13,000 passengers. Besides, NACIL also incurred losses to the tune of Rs 10 crore due to the strike.

Shortly after the strike was called off, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the kind of behaviour shown by the striking employees cannot be tolerated repeatedly. “Whoever did it are absolutely irresponsible,” he said.

The strike was called off following a Delhi High Court order yesterday. The Government had also turned the heat on the striking employees giving a free hand to Air India management to take stern action against them. About 20,000 employees belonging to ACEU and AIAEA had gone on strike, according to the Unions. The striking employees accounted for roughly 60 per cent of the airline’s staff.

DPA adds

Air India says three days needed to clear backlog

Up to three days would be required to clear a backlog of passengers caused by a strike of ground and maintenance staff, the state-run carrier Air India said on Thursday.

The two-day strike by at least 15,000 employees was called off Wednesday evening after the Delhi High Court gave an order saying the action was illegal.

“It may take up to two and half to three days for Air India to clear the backlog of passengers and return to normal service,” the IANS news agency quoted Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav as saying.

“Nearly 13,000 passengers were affected due to the strike while 4,000 to 5,000 passengers were stranded, including 600 in Singapore,” Mr. Jhadav said.

More than 140 flights, both domestic and international, were either cancelled or diverted.

Unions called the strike to protest a gag order by management forbidding their leaders from talking to the media over delays in salary payments.

The strike came three days after an Air India flight crashed in the south-western city of Mangalore, killing 158 people.

Soon after the court order Wednesday, the unions called off the strike and asked workers to return to work immediately.

Management, meanwhile, launched a massive crackdown on the unions and several of their leaders were sent letters of termination while others were suspended, a newspaper reported.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the unions had gone a bit too far and management had been given a free hand to deal with them.

The cash-strapped national carrier has been given 168 million dollars by the government as part of a bail-out package so far and is working on a reorganisation plan.

The airline has a workforce of more than 30,000 people, which, analysts said, needs to be cut in half to make Air India competitive.

Although private airlines were expecting to return to profit in the financial year that began April 1, Air India was expected to report large losses in spite of its restructuring plan.

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