Members of Hindustan Aeronautics Employees Association tie bands on their hands before talking to the media on their strike, in Bengaluru (Photo: PTI)
Members of Hindustan Aeronautics Employees Association tie bands on their hands before talking to the media on their strike, in Bengaluru (Photo: PTI)

HAL strike continues as management and workers refuse to budge on wage revision

  • The unions have sought a wage revision on par with what is given to the executives, which is a 35% hike in gross salary and a 110-140% hike in perks
  • The strike by over 19,000 HAL workforce entered the second day, grounding the defence behemoth's operations at all its locations across the country

Bengaluru: The stalemate between workers and management of public sector unit, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is likely to be prolonged as both sides have refused to soften its stand on the contentious wage revision issue affecting production at India’s largest aircraft maker. The strike is one of the biggest in the history of the 79 year old company that last saw such disruption to production in 1981.

Bengaluru-headquartered HAL’s management remains steadfast that its offer is fair and in line with making the company more cost effective and competitive in the future while the employees argue that the aircraft maker continues to discriminate between executives and workers.

“We are on the strike and will be on strike until we achieve what we have placed as our demands," Suryadev Chandrashekar, general secretary of the HAL trade union said in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

The statement to intensify the ongoing strike by almost 90% of the over 19,000 employees across nine units in seven states, adding to the stalemate that has brought production to a grinding halt at HAL, that helps build, service and modify aircraft and helicopters among other defence equipment for the Indian armed forces that include Light Combat Aircraft, Sukhoi and Light Combat Helicopter among other products.

But teething legacy issues, inordinate delays in production and adhering to delivery dates has forced the Indian government to look for alternatives to HAL in the recent past to improve its capabilities and defend itself in the extremely hostile and volatile neighbourhood.

The workers are demanding 15% fitment (increase in basic salary) and 35% perks as given to executives and argue that workers have been offered only 11% fitment and 22% perks to bolster its allegations of discrimination between employees at HAL. The management however argue that executives get a wage revision once in 10 years while workers get it once in five years.

The management on Tuesday said that its wage revision offer that aggregates to around 16-17% per worker--a claim vehemently denied by the workers.

“What has been offered to you (workers) today in the given circumstances is one of the best in the industry," said C.B. Ananthankrishnan, director (finance) at HAL in a press conference by the management.

Though the management deflected questions on if they were referring to the economic slowdown in the country, it said that there were efforts to optimise labour costs.

“It is not anymore on cost plus basis but on target pricing," Ananthakrishnan said.

“Unless we remain competitive, our prices are proving to be value for money, we are not get further orders in the future," he added.

HAL has an order book of around 60,000 crore, that the management says will last for around three years and that it is currently negotiating other contracts to secure the future of the company and its employees.

The company said that it was trying to bring labour costs from around 24% of its revenues to under 20% by optimising costs and increasing topline.

But the company has been criticised for increasing the percentage of contract workers and bringing employees under tenure to just around 1,000 in the company.

“We have to rightsize the organisation. Keeping in view the competitive angle, it was decided at the board level that we need to have manpower that is much more flexible," V.M. Chamola, director (Human Resources) said.

Chamola added that the management was 'competent' enough to resolve the labour crisis on its own.