Air India cracks whip on unions as some flights resume

Mumbai/New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) Amid moves to restore normal operations after a two-day wildcat strike by 15,000 employees, national carrier Air India Thursday initiated steps to avert such stirs in future, suspending over 40 workers and sealing two union offices.

The officials suspended are mainly office bearers of the All India Aircraft Engineers’ Association (AIAEA) and Air Corporation Employees’ Union (ACEU). The offices of these two unions, too, have been sealed, officials confirmed in Mumbai.

‘We are also taking due steps to de-recognise these two unions,’ said a senior official speaking for the management, adding all moves initiated since Wednesday had the full backing of the aviation ministry.

The union leaders, nevertheless, remained adamant and said they will serve a proper notice for another strike.

The airline has already said that it will take another day or so to resume normal operations as the entire roster was in disarray. They said 78 scheduled operations were pressed into service Thursday and more would be added over the next few days.

‘There were a few cancellations from New Delhi and Kolkata this morning, but as far as Mumbai was concerned, we have been able to operate all our flights as usual,’ an Air India spokesperson told IANS in Mumbai.

‘Two early morning flights to Ahmedabad could not be operated. But they had minimal load, which was transferred to other flights operating from the international terminal.’

The strike, the airline said, had led to over 100 flight cancellations and a loss of Rs.12 crore (Rs.120 million/$2.5 million) for the carrier, even as 13,000 passengers were inconvenienced.

It was evident that the government supported the action by the airline management.

‘Whatever action has to be taken, we have to go the whole hog,’ Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav said, hours after the Delhi High Court order Wednesday staying the strike, adding that Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had fully backed their stand.

‘We will ensure that such an event is not repeated in future,’ Civil Aviation Secretary M. Madhavan Nambiar added, in a clear signal to the airline to take whatever steps as may be required to ensure orderly behaviour by unions.

But the union leaders have decided to take up the matter with Chief Labour Commissioner S.K. Mukhopadhyay, who was mediating on behalf of the two sides and had assured them that there would be no victimisation.

The sudden strike had further dented the image of the flag carrier that had come under a cloud due to reports of poor safety standards in the light of the Mangalore air crash and overall deterioration in services due to accumulated losses that topped $2.5 billion.

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