Air India employees move Madras HC to protect their service conditions over disinvestment

Court orders stay on eviction from residential accommodation, discontinuance of medical facilities

December 03, 2021 01:27 pm | Updated 07:56 pm IST - CHENNAI

File photograph used for representational purposes only

File photograph used for representational purposes only

A trade union representing over 5,000 employees of Air India Limited has approached the Madras High Court to restrain the Centre from disinvesting the air carrier without first holding talks with the union for protecting the service conditions and other rights and entitlements of the existing workforce.

Justice V. Parthiban on Friday ordered notices, returnable by January 7, to the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, Air India Limited (AIL) and Talace Private Limited, a company set up by the Tata Group to acquire Air India. The notices were ordered on the writ petition filed by the Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU).

Acceding to a request made by senior counsel R. Vaigai, the judge also granted two interim injunctions restraining the official respondents from evicting employees from the residential accommodation that has been provided to them, and also from discontinuing their existing medical facilities.

The judge also asked Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan to make sure that a counter affidavit on behalf of the Centre was filed by the next hearing. In an affidavit filed on behalf of the ACEU, its president C. Udayashankar stated that the union had its registered office in New Delhi and regional office in Chennai.

He claimed it was the largest recognised trade union in Air India. Its members included cabin crew, aircraft equipment operators, drivers, instructors, supervisors, assistants, peons, helpers, safaiwalas and security staff, and women employees accounted for about 40% of its membership.

As per a September 14, 2015 deed of recognition of the petitioner union, the management of Air India should consult the union on matters pertaining to the wage structure, service conditions and all other issues affecting the interests of regular non-managerial employees of the company, the ACEU said.

Pointing out that AIL was a company wholly owned by the Government of India, the ACEU said the Centre was now in the process of 100% disinvestment of its stakes. Since the workforce of the air carrier was over 20,000, the petitioner union insisted on protecting their service conditions in the wake of the disinvestment.

Job security till the age of 58 years, wage revision, rectification in anomalies in basic pay of cabin crew, stagnation of employees in officer cadre (Grade 9) even after serving the organisation for more than 20 years, encashment of sick leave and privilege leave before disinvestment, etc., were of the some of the issues to be settled, the union said.

It urged the court to forbear the Centre, Air India and Talace from proceeding with the disinvestment process without taking appropriate measures to protect the terms and conditions of service and rights of the employees represented by the petitioner union.

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