New Delhi: The largest workers’ union at airport regulator Airports Authority of India, or AAI, has begun a protest across the country’s airports, blaming the management and the civil aviation ministry for overlooking employees interests three years after privatization of Delhi and Mumbai airports, and has threatened to strike work if issues are not resolved early.
At least 4,000 employees have to be relocated from the two biggest airports in India by early May as per terms of a May 2006 privatization agreement between the AAI and the private consortia running the two airports: Delhi International Airport Pvt. Ltd, or DIAL, and Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd, or Mial.
Most of the AAI workers at the two airports have declined to join DIAL and Mial because job security is not guaranteed to them under the 2006 agreement. AAI runs airports through an eponymous unit.
Peaceful solution: Airport Authority of India employees protesting at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan in New Delhi on Wednesday. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
“When a firm promise (at the time of privatization) was made by honourable minister (civil aviation minister Praful Patel) that nothing will happen to employees, now arbitrarily how can (AAI) send people from Delhi and Mumbai to small stations where there is no requirement of people,” said M. K. Ghoshal, general secretary at the Airports Authority Employees Union.
AAI employees were being asked to go to smaller airports such as Dehradun or Imphal or take up the “voluntary retirement scheme”, dates for which have been extended till end of this month, Ghoshal said.
The union, which claims membership of 14,000 of the some 20,000 AAI employees, said the protests that started at AAI headquarters in New Delhi on Monday have been extended to all 126 AAI-run airports where employees have staged peaceful demonstrations.
The functioning of the airports will not be affected as a result of demonstrations, Ghoshal said, adding that the patience of employees “has its limits.”
A two-day strike in February last year at airports across the country disrupted functions such as coordination at airport terminals, garbage clearance and trolley handling.