Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel will meet representatives of the biggest workers’ union at Indian, formerly Indian Airlines, on Tuesday.
The minister’s move is seen as an attempt to assuage the workers’ fears on issues such as wages, promotions and job security at the state-run carrier ahead of its imminent merger with Air India.
“We have been asked by the management to meet the minister tomorrow,” J.K. Badola, general secretary of the 14,000-strong Air Corporations Employees’ Union (ACEU), told Mint.
Three other unions—the 700-member Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), Indian Aircraft Technical Association with 2,500 members, and the All India Aircraft Engineers’ Association—have joined the ACEU in opposing the merger that is slated to create one of Asia’s top 10 airlines. But, they have not been invited to the meeting with the minister.
Ever since the group of ministers, led by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, made its recommendation last Wednesday, workers of Indian have pasted posters in all the large airports, opposing the merger.
Patel has repeatedly said there will be no retrenchment and employees’ interests will be taken care of. However, some unions say they want written assurances under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
ICPA has even threatened to move court in case the merger goes ahead without taking into consideration the employees’ issues.
Surender Reddy, general secretary of the Indian Aircraft Technical Association, a group that opposed the merger over concerns that workers will be ill-equipped to maintain the new Boeing and Airbus planes that will make up the fleet at the merged airline, said they are awaiting the outcome of the meeting between Patel and ACEU to decide their course of action.
“All of us are mulling internal discussions after hearing what the minister has to say about the issues,” he said on phone from Hyderabad.
A seven-member ACEU delegation will be meeting Patel with demands such as wage revisions, pending since 1997; wage parity with Air India employees, who earn at least 15% more than Indian employees; and the future of 3,000 casual workers who have spent a decade working at Indian.
“There was no written assurance in the last letter that we received from the ministry. We hope this time there will be some movement,” Badola said.
Workers of Indian, numbering about 19,000, would make up a majority of the over-34,000 staff at the merged entity.
Unions representing about 95% of Indian’s workers say they are opposed to the merger. However, a majority of workers at Air India, with 15,500 employees, support the merger.