The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Airports back on strike course

New Delhi, Aug. 3: Airport employees have threatened a repeat of February’s chaos, vowing to go on mass casual leave for two days — August 17 and 18 — if the government did not stop pushing them to join the joint ventures in Delhi and Mumbai airports.

“We will hold protest demonstrations, we will go on mass casual leave protesting against AAI (Airports Authority of India) employees being pushed to join the new joint venture companies,” Airports Authority Employees’ Union chief M.K. Ghoshal said.

“The government thinks we are not as efficient as private players are. Then let the new ventures hire private staff, why force us to join in'” he asked.

With a chuckle, Ghoshal admitted that such a protest could push airports into the “February situation”. For three days starting February 1, a strike against privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports had disrupted flight schedules and made airports resemble garbage dumps.

The new strike call has been timed with a change at Delhi airport. The GMR group-led joint venture — Delhi International Airport Limited — took over the airport from the AAI last night.

While the joint venture will manage most functions, sovereign duties like air traffic control, customs, immigration and security will remain with the government.

According to one of the provisions of the pact with the government, GMR has to take in some 60 per cent of airport employees on its rolls. A similar deal was also struck with the GVK group, which has been handed over Mumbai airport.

This clause is at the crux of the fresh standoff between the union and the government. Ghoshal said the government wants to push 5,000 employees “into these joint ventures”.

Civil aviation officials said talks are on with the union. “We think it is a posture there will be no strike,” an official said.

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