Indian Airlines ground handling staff to disrupt work on May 17-18

Mumbai: Indian Airlines (IA) services will likely be disrupted on Thursday and Friday as employees affiliated to the Air Corporation Employees' Union (ACEU) have decided to stage a walkout on the issue of wage arrears. Employees are demanding clearance of arrears going back ten years. The settlement of such a bill is likely to cost the management up to Rs500 crore, which it is unwilling to meet.

According to plan chalked out by the airline's seven unions, employees will stage a walk-out between 9 and 11.30 am on May 17, while they will go on mass casual leave on May 18. The ACEU accounts for 14,000 of the airlines' 18,000 employees as its members.

Though pilots and engineers are not part of the disruption programme, flight operations will nevertheless come to a standstill, as all ground-handling services will be unavailable with ground staff for loading, unloading, boarding assistance, passenger coach management and other critical activities absent.

The decision to stage a walkout was taken after parleys between the union and IA management broke down, with the management saying that employees' demand for ten years wages would result in an unacceptably high outgo of Rs500 crore for the carrier. It has instead offered a settlement of five-year's wages.

It is understood that IA has drawn up a contingency plan for rescheduling and combining flights. According to IA chairman and managing director, Vishwapati Trivedi, "We are talking to them and we are hopeful that we could settle differences of opinion soon."

ACEU leaders have termed the May 17 and 18 disruption as "non-cooperation," but said they could go on indefinite strike if their demands were not met.