The largest workers union at Indian Airlines Ltd looked set to go on strike from Wednesday after talks between it and the state-owned carrier’s management broke down over non-payment of pending salary arrears for nearly 10 years, estimated at Rs450 crore, potentially raising a big hurdle before the company’s ongoing merger with Air India.
Air Corporations Employees Union, or ACEU, which has about 14,000 of Indian’s 18,000-strong workforce, said it will gear up for ‘direct action’ or boycott work from Tuesday.
“We have informed them (the Indian top management) that there is no point in holding talks any more. This can’t go on forever,” J.K. Badola, general secretary of ACEU, said after a meeting between union representatives and top managers of Indian, including Vishwapati Trivedi, the airline’s chairman and managingdirector. Unions at Indian have been demanding wage revision, a clear path of promotions and payment of arrears before the two state-owned airlines merge.
On 15 July, the two carriers expect to merge formally as one company and fly their first flight under the Air India brand. The call for strike does not come as a surprise. The unions at Indian have been adamant about the payment of arrears on the lines of a similar payout made to Air India employees last year and had been preparing for a showdown since last week.
Trivedi said the talks with the unions are still on and there was no reason tostrike work.
“We have come a long way (since the talks with the unions started a month ago) and on most of the other issues, including wage revisions and career progression, we have nearly reached a consensus,” he said. The wage revision alone will cost the merged entity Rs80-90 crore a year.