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Airport strike deferred
- 45-day truce on alternative proposal to privatisation

Sept. 25: The cloud of a cease-work at Calcutta airport on Monday lifted with about 3,000 employees deciding to defer their mass-leave agitation for 45 days after talks with civil aviation minister Praful Patel.

At a marathon four-and-a-half-hour meeting in Mumbai, it was decided that an expert committee, comprising representatives from among the employees and the government, would study the feasibility of an alternative proposal to raise money through an initial public offer instead of privatising Delhi and Mumbai airports. It will submit its report within 45 days.

Speaking to reporters, Patel said it is not a change of stance on privatisation of airports by the ministry. 'We have basically said we'll examine their plan.'

Besides Calcutta, 20,000 airport employees across the country were set to participate in the mass leave agitation that would have crippled flights.

Yesterday, Delhi High Court had restrained the employees from going on strike or mass casual leave. Nitin Jadhav, joint secretary of the Airports Authority Employees' Union, said the unions would challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

Patel kicked off his meeting with the Joint Action Forum, comprising members of the agitating employees' unions, requesting the leaders against going on strike as it would amount to violating the court directive.

The employees asked the minister to look into the recommendations made by the central labour commissioner, including development of Mumbai and Delhi airports followed by 15 others across India through the Airports Authority of India's cash reserves.

'The common minimum programme (of the government) clearly says no profit-making public sector undertaking should be privatised. The same applies to Delhi and Mumbai airports, which are doing very well,' said a spokesman for JAF in Calcutta.

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