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AI Employees Call Off Stir After HC Order After Govt Tough Talk

The 33-hour flash strike by a section of Air India employees was called off on Wednesday following a Delhi High Court order, but the management cracked down on strike leaders sacking 15 and suspending 13
PTI May 26, 2010 21:04 IST

The 33-hour flash strike by a section of Air India employees was called off on Wednesday following a Delhi High Court order, but the management cracked down on strike leaders sacking 15 and suspending 13 others.

Several more employees involved in the strike which began yesterday afternoon and disrupted hundreds of flights, are likely to be either terminated or suspended, highly-placed sources said tonight, indicating that a total of upto 100 employees would face action.

The High Court earlier restrained the striking employees from continuing with the stir even as Government talked tough asking the airline's management to crack down on them.

The Air Corporation Employees Union(ACEU), which spearheaded the strike along with the All India Aircraft Engineers Association(AIAEA), while announcing that the strike has ended said the striking staff will resume work with immediate effect.

"Following the intervention of Chief Labour Commissioner and in the interest of travelling public, the ACEU is calling off the agitation. Our rank and file has been asked to restore normalcy as soon as possible. The AIAEA is also calling off the stir," ACEU leader J B Kadiyan told reporters here.

To questions on sacking and suspension of employees, Kadiyan claimed that the Chief Labour Commissioner S K Mukhopadhyay has given in writing that no victimisation cane take place if conciliation process is on.

Welcoming the Unions' decision to call of the strike, Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav said, "we want NACIL to become a professional, accountable and disciplined organisation. The Management is trying to ensure discipline...We are grateful to the Government of India for backing us."

The Unions fell in line after the order of the Delhi High Court which turned the heat on them giving relief to the management of the cash-strapped state-owned airline which was given a free hand by government to take stern action against the striking employees.

Air India officials said 130 flights, mostly domestic, could not be operated since the flash strike by engineers and ground staff began yesterday. The strike caused a loss of Rs 10 crore and severely affected 13,000 passengers most of whom remained stranded, they said.

The National Aviation Company of India Limited(NACIL), which operates Air India, had rushed to the Mumbai High Court and Delhi High Court seeking directions for an end to the stir. An estimated 20,000 engineers and ground staff or about 60 per cent of the staff strength are on strike, according to unions.

The Mumbai High Court declined to pass any orders but the High Court here directed the unions of airline not to continue with the strike and also not to resort to strike with effect from May 31 in terms of the May 14 strike notice.

Representatives of striking employees and top officials of the airline's management also held talks here in a bid to end the stand-off before they had a joint meeting with the Chief Labour Commissioner.

The Unions are protesting against a 'gag order' on members for talking to the media after Saturday's air crash in Mangalore and 'delay' in payment of salaries. The management however clarified there is only one general circular and that there was no 'gag order".

Taking exception to the "illegal and irresponsible" action by Air India employees, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel stepped in and backed the management and said the airline is free to take firm measures to restore normalcy in its operations.

"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", Patel told reporters after a meeting with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and airline CMD Arvind Jadhav.

Issuing a stern warning to the striking employees, he said "such 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"

Air India Counsel Lalit Bhasin said, "The High Court has instructed them to restrain themselves from the strike. If they continue, that will amount to contempt of court." PTI