AI ground-handling staff stage protest

Special Correspondent

CHICKBALLAPUR: Ground-handling staff of Air India staged a demonstration at Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) in Devanahalli on Tuesday in protest against the Civil Aviation Ministry’s new policy on outsourcing ground-handling work, which is likely to come into force in January 2009.

The demonstration was on the airport premises during the lunch break, according to sources in the airport.

It is said that earlier in the day some of the Air India ground-handling employees even obstructed the staff of Singapore Air Terminal Services (SATS), specialised ground-handling agency, from discharging their duties.

However, sources in Air India, who described the incident as a minor one, said that none of its airline crew took part in the demonstration and the protest did not result in flight delays. All these years, airlines themselves were taking care of ground-handling work at many airports in the country.

The ground-handling staff fear that if outsourcing takes place in accordance with the new policy, many of them will lose their job.

Industry sources said that according to the new policy, only three agencies would be allowed to take up ground-handling services at the major metro airports in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. These three would be airport operators or a joint venture company, subsidiary companies of National Aviation Company of India (NACIL) or their joint ventures or any other ground-handling service provider selected through competitive bidding on a revenue-sharing basis, they said.

The Aviation Ministry is said to be of the view that more players joining the race would lead to competitive pricing and better services, the sources said. BIAL, which operates BIA, has outsourced the ground-handling work to SATS and Global Trade in accordance with a Director-General of Civil Aviation circular of September 2007.

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