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Air India says to restore normal schedule from Friday

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, May 27, 2010

A day after its engineers and ground staff called off a two-day-old flash strike, national carrier Air India today said that it would restore its normal schedule from tomorrow.

In a statement, the airline said it had operated more than 90 per cent of the flights scheduled for today till 1800 hours.

The two-day strike had forced the airline to cancel more than a hundred flights and had left thousands of passengers stranded at airports across the country.

The employees had resorted to the sudden action on Tuesday to protest delays in the payment of salaries and a gag order on talking to the media about last Saturday's crash of an Air India Express flight from Dubai at Mangalore, in which 158 people had been killed.

The decision to call off the strike came yesterday evening shortly after the Delhi High Court, on a plea by the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), the public sector company that runs Air India, directed the unions not to continue with the strike.

The court also directed the unions not to resort to strike with effect from May 31 in terms of a strike notice served by them to the Air India management on May 14.

The court further directed the members of the union not to cause any obstruction to the visitors and passengers at the airports and the Head Office / Registered Office / Booking Offices and the regional offices of the airline. The unions shall allow egress and ingress to visitors and goods, it directed.

Air India said that it would meet the leaders of all unions on June 1 at its headquarters when it will communicate the actual reasons leading to the present situation.

The statement also said wage disbursements would take place on June 1.

Meanwhile, the Air India management today withdrew the recognition granted to the All India Aircraft Engineers Association (AIAEA) and the Air Corporations Employees Union (ACEU).

The reasons for derecognition included the illegal strike resorted to by the two unions, which the airline said caused harassment to innocent passengers, caused revenue losses to the company and distrupted flights nationwide and to international destinations.

It said the AIAEA and ACEU had indulged in regular violations of the Code of Discipline and of the settlements and acted in a manner resulting in the disruption of the normal working of the company and breach of industrial peace and harmony.

It said that one of the most objectionable actions of theAIAEA was that, in breach of office order dated 27.7.2009, it approached media criticizing the systems and procedures of the company.

Air India said there were no statutory provisions for recognition of trade unions. The Trade Union Act 1926 does not provide for recognition of a trade union in respect of industry or establishment. The Industrial Dispute Act also does not provide for recognition of trade unions.

The statement said that, in fact, when the erstwhile Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC) recognised ACEU in May 1959, the terms and conditions stated that it "is clearly understood and recognised that IAC is a Public Utility Service operating round the clock everyday and has a duty of serving the traveling public."

The Code of Discipline in the industry which permits recognition of a union claiming membership of at least 15 % of workers in an establishment is also recommendatory and has no statutory force, the management said.

According to it, the recognition granted to AIAEA and ACEU by the management of erstwhile Indian Airlines, states inter alia that "they are committed to observe constitutional means and not to resort to agitational steps and/or concerted action or any other means which may have the effect of interrupting or disrupting the work of the Company and/or other normal functioning of various sections and departments and/or the operations of services of the Company which may have effect of causing the delays to the Company’s services or inconvenience to its passengers or public".

The airline said it had terminated the services of some employees in terms of Service Rule 13(a) of the applicable Service Regulations and Contract of Employment.

The strike by the employees of the loss-making airline came during the peak summer rush and the cancellation of flights had put thousands of passengers to great inconvenience. There are many domestic stations which are served only by Air India.

More importantly, the walk-out by the employees came at a time when the airline was still coping with Saturday's tragedy at Mangalore.

NNN