Mumbai: Hours after crushing the two-day old strike by Air India employees, the state-owned airline de-recognised two major trade unions and sealed their offices across the country.
The airline gradually restored normalcy since morning though 25 flights were cancelled for the day.
Erstwhile Indian Airlines’ union Air Corporation Employees’ Union (ACEU) and All India Aircraft Engineers’ Association (AIAEA) have been de-recognised by the management of National Aviation Company of India Ltd (Nacil) and their offices have also been sealed, Nacil sources said on 28 May. NACIL is the holding company of Air India.
This is not the first time that a Union has been de-recognized at Air India. In 2003, Indian Pilot’s Guild was de-recognized by Air India management for violating conditions agreed upon in the Union recognition agreement. The union managed to wrest back their recognition after five years in 2008, after prolonged legal battle.
Besides terminating the services of 17 office-bearers of the two Unions on 26 May, the airline suspended 15 engineers.
J.B. Kadian, general secretary of Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU) confirmed that all of the union offices were sealed across the country. “We will have to sit and discuss to plan about future course of action. We are talking to our (union) friends to chart out future actions,” Kadian told Mint. Kadian was terminated on 26 May for leading the strike.
“This is illegal. This decision was taken without consulting to us or even other directors. We will go for legal recourse against this dictatorship by Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav,” said a Mumbai-based union leader who got termination letter from Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav.
“See the action of CMD is illegal. Our union is registered under the Indian government law. Therefore, we will proceed accordingly.Definelty we will seek other unions help too. See this has happened to the single largest union representing 50% of Air India’s employees. So it may happened to any union tomorrow. We are in the trade union for last 60 years. We dont believe in ”dadagiri”. Not a single officer or engineer was manhandled. Still this illegal action was taken. But we will proceed according to the lawful terms to fight against this victimisation,” Aceu president Dinakar Shetty told Mint.
More dismissals and suspensions are likely to follow with highly-placed sources indicating that a total of upto 100 employees would face action.
All India Aircraft Engineers Association, led by its general secretary Y V Raju, is all set to serve a fresh 14-days notice of strike to Air India. “Our union is not deregistered, just de-recongnised. We have already consulted with our labour union lawyers,” said a union leader.
“The de-recognition order came in last night and their offices have also been sealed,” the sources said, as the airline cracked down on the Union leaders.
Dinkar Shetty, a leader of the ACEU, said they were waiting for a formal communication from the management regarding termination and suspension before deciding on the future course of action.
ACEU and AIAEA had gone on a flash-strike on 25 May to protest a ‘gag order’ directing the office-bearers of Nacil trade union to refrain from making public statements and harming the image of the company.
The Unions were demanding immediate withdrawal of the ‘gag order’. But the management claimed there was only a general circular which has been upheld by the Mumbai High Court and that there was no such ‘gag order.’
The strike led to cancellation of 130 flights affecting 13,000 passengers. Besides, Nacil also incurred losses to the tune of Rs10 crore due to the strike.
Shortly after the strike was called off, Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel said the kind of behaviour shown by the striking employees cannot be tolerated repeatedly. “Whoever did it are absolutely irresponsible,” he said.
The strike was called off following a Delhi High Court order on 26 May. The government had also turned the heat on the striking employees giving a free hand to Air India management to take stern action against them. About 20,000 employees belonging to ACEU and AIAEA had gone on strike, according to the Unions. The striking employees accounted for roughly 60% of the airline’s staff.