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Indian airline strike called off

New Delhi, June 14(Reuters): Employees of India's state-run air line, Indian, on Thursday called off a three- day strike that had stranded thousands of passengers as scores of flights were cancelled or delayed, a spokesman said.

The decision came after an agreement be tween the union of ground staff and the management, allowing the resumption of nor mal flight operations, an aviation ministry spokeswoman said.

“There were some minor issues on wage arrears and career pro gression which were amicably settled be tween the manage ment, ministry and the workers,” she said. “They will see how soon normalcy can be brought about.”

The strike started late on Tuesday when em ployees of Indian, for merly known as Indian Airlines, stopped work demanding higher wages and benefits amid a boom in air travel in the country, the world's fastest- growing aviation mar ket.

It led to the cancella tion of some 200 flights and scores more were delayed, creating chaos at airports across the country and throw ing air travel off course. Thousands of ground staff and some cabin crew of the predomi nantly domestic carrier defied a court order to end their protest, as well as warnings of suspension and closure from the government, saying they would not be cowed by threats.

Details of the settle ment were not imme diately available and union leaders could not be reached for comment. Local televi sion news channels said the government had agreed to pay salary arrears demand ed by the workers by next year.

The management had also agreed to recon sider suspension notices issued to 23 striking employees, they said.

Passengers distraught

Indian, which had a monopoly of the skies before the sector was opened up to private carriers in the early 1990s, operates about 330 flights every day, carrying about 30,000 passengers.

The airline was notori ous for its poor service but has pulled up its socks since the entry of private players trig gered intense competi tion.

Analysts said Indian currently had nearly a quarter of the country's domestic aviation business, as a booming economy has led to a sharp rise in air travel and the launch of several private, low-fare airlines.

Indian is being merged with Air India, the state-run international flagship, to take on the competition.

For many harried pas sengers, the disrup tions were a throwback to the days when strikes or delays were frequent.

Vinoth Kumar, an en gineer, was not sure if he could be by the side of his wife, who was expected to deliver their first child on Thursday in the south ern city of Coimbatore.

“I don't think I can get there, I am just having to talk to her by phone. I think I will miss the birth,” he said outside Delhi airport before the strike was called off, adding that some private carriers had raised fares to take ad vantage of the strike.

Susan Montez, a tourist from Texas, said she was stuck at Delhi airport since she arrived from Dubai on her way to the northern Indian Sikh holy city of Amritsar.

They just have me run ning back and forth. This is my first trip to India, it's going to be the last too,” she said.

 

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