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Singapore shadow scares IA engineers

New Delhi, Oct. 30: State-run carrier Indian Airlines’ (IA) engineers today threatened a wildcat agitation over the airline's plans to join hands with Singapore International Airlines (SIA) for a joint venture engineering and maintenance firm.

Airline unions described it as "backdoor attempt to privatise" and vowed a non-cooperation movement against it. However, IA top brass went into a damage control operation and clarified by the evening that all that had been signed with SIA Engineering Company was a memorandum of understanding to study "the feasibility of such a venture".

Chanchal Chattopadhyay, general secretary of the Indian Airlines Engineers Association, said IA engineers and other employees would strongly oppose this "backdoor privatisation" and "we will go for one day non-cooperation in protest against this”.

But an IA spokesperson said, "The engineers have been misguided ... someone has spread mis-information that we have concluded a final deal. We have not even started the feasibility study."

Sources said the proposal made by SIA involved setting up an aircraft maintenance and overhaul facility at multiple locations here by early next year. This joint venture was to provide engineering and overhaul facilities to all domestic and global airlines. IA is already providing such facilities to all domestic airlines and to several global airlines, including Silk Air, SIA's sister concern.

However, IA top brass said this was not possible. “IA is a government owned company and is obliged to gain prior approvals from statutory authorities before it can get into any financial or other kinds of partnerships. It just can't be done so quickly. These are mere rumours."

IA officials also hastened to state that they would keep the unions updated on all news on the study after Chattopadhyay complained that the IA engineers were never taken into confidence on the issue. IA engineers stressed that they were in talks with other unions such as the pilots body and these unions supported their stand.

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