A one-day “mass leave” planned by the largest employees union at state-owned India Airlines Ltd on Friday has been postponed after labour ministry officials assured worker representatives that the thorny issue of wage arrears would be discussed with the cabinet secretary, who is the highest-ranking bureaucrat in the country, a union official said.
Workers at the Air Corporations Employees Union (ACEU) had planned to go on leave to protest non-payment of arrears, amounting to about Rs450 crore, pending for 10 years.
“The CLC (chief labour commissioner) has assured us that they are taking the matter with higher authorities and will come back to us within a week,” said J.B. Kadian, convenor of the joint-action committee that represents eight worker groups at Indian, after a meeting with chief labour commissioner S.K. Mukhopadhyay.
Kadian said ACEU—which counts nearly 14,000 employees of Indian among its members—will, however, continue to boycott work for two-and-half-hours. “If there is no resolution after this we have informed them (CLC) we are free to go on an indefinite strike,” he said. The next meeting with the CLC is scheduled for 28 May.
The resolution of the workers’ demand is seen critical to the ongoing merger between Indian and Air India.
At the CLC meeting, a senior executive at Indian, requesting anonymity, said ACEU has been offered arrears of up to Rs200 crore together with wage revisions amounting to Rs80-90 crore annually. This offer, he said, was rejected by union representatives.
Reacting to the proposed strike call earlier in the day, the ministry of civil aviation finally issued a statement warning of possible cuts in incentives for those who participate in the proposed casual leave.
The ministry said the government and Indian were “committed to a reasonable solution to the demand for wage arrears”.
A boycott of work on Thursday saw Indian’s employees at the Delhi airport and its headquarters taking out protests and shouting slogans. An airport spokesman said the protests did not result in any traffic disruption.