New Delhi: Even as the first commercial test flight lands at the new Hyderabad international airport on Monday ahead of its opening next month, the largest worker union at the state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) has threatened to go on a relay hunger strike on Tuesday, boycotting work at airports across the country over several issues including the planned closure of the existing airport in Hyderabad.
The one-day protest, said an AAI executive who did not wish to be quoted, is unlikely to cause any disruption in air traffic control but could disrupt some operations at airport terminals. Most of the non-executive workforce of the union is involved in cleaning the terminal and managing conveyor belt operations.
“We are going en masse on a countrywide relay first because there are several problems and nobody is prepared to reply to, nobody is prepared to do justice,” said M.K. Ghoshal, convener, AAI Employees’ Joint Forum, which represents about 21,000 employees.
“The most unfortunate part is we have to open one shop asking another to close down,” he added. He was referring to the existing Hyderabad and Bangalore airports, which would be closed next month for commercial flights as the new international airports in the outskirts of the two south Indian cities open.
In the past six months, there have been similar voices against closing existing airports, by Deccan Aviation Ltd founder Capt. G.R. Gopinath and Kingfisher Airlines Ltd’s Vijay Mallya, apart from local politicians, who argue that given the air traffic growth and plans for second airports at both New Delhi and Mumbai, the government should relook at the agreements with the developers of the new airports.
“It’s a matter of lodging protest. If the government does not hold any meetings, then it (the strike) may go in some other direction,” said Ghoshal, adding that letters written to civil aviation minister Praful Patel and the AAI management in the past one-and-a-half months have not led to anything meaningful. The unions are also against privatization of the 35 non-metro airports as they are likely to result in surplus workforce at the state-owned unit with little scope for relocation.