Air India workers plan strike over pay delay

With the Air India management deciding to defer salary payments for June by a fortnight to July 15, over 24,000 employees of the national carrier on Wednesday threatened to go on an agitation from 30 June over the delayed payments.

"Members of Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU), Aviation Industry Employee's Guild (AIEG) and Indian Aircraft Technicians Association will jointly boycott their work on 30 June by adopting a 'no pay, no work' policy if the management fails to give us our salary on June 30," ACEU general secretary J B Kadiyan said in New Delhi.

Accusing the airline management of taking an "anti-worker, anti-company and anti-national" stand, he said, ''Since everyone will be joining the protest, there will be no movement of the airline's aircraft on that day.''

However, the Kolkata-based Telegraph quoted unnamed Air India officials as saying the strike was unlikely to take place. It gave no reasons for this conclusion.

Giving details of the proposed course of action by the three unions, Kadiyan said they have decided to hold a mass meeting on the issue on 19 June. From 22-25 June, they would protest the management's decision by wearing black badges at work.

The state-run airline, which is likely to report a massive loss of around Rs 4,300 crore for fiscal 2008-09, is facing a ''temporary cash flow imbalance''. (See: Air India delays salaries, awaits bailout package)

The ACEU is the largest trade union of Air India employees with over 22,000 members. National Aviation Company of India Ltd, which owns Air India, has about 31,000 employees.

The airline was hoping that the unions would cooperate over the salary delay considering the cash crunch, as the unions of many corporations in the US and elsewhere have done. British Airways has in fact announced that it will not pay its employees any salary for June, and its unions have accepted the measure.

However, the Air India unions are adamant. They say the airline must implement the two-fold salary hike it had promised last month, otherwise the strike is on. While pleading for more understanding from its workers, NACIL has failed to explain on what ground it actually promised a pay hike last month, if at all it did so.