A group of Air India unions have threatened to go on an indefinite strike starting November 2 if they are forced to vacate their residences at the Air India colonies.
The group called the Joint Action Committee of Air India Unions, comprising of Air Corporation Employees Union, Aviation Industry Employees Guild, and All India Service Engineers Association, called for the strike.
Calling the notice to vacate their accommodation an "unfair labour practice", the union wrote to Meenakshi Kashyap, General Manager (Industrial Relations) on October 13. It said that the "staff normally lives in the colonies with their families until retirement and displacing them from their homes whilst in service amounts to unilaterally withdrawing a privilege and usage ---- a service condition and legal right, that has been in existence for several years/decades."
In an interview with India Today Television, Vilas Giridhar, President of All India Service Engineers Association, said, "during the pandemic, it was the 'colony' people that went on duty because they stayed close to the airport. The rest couldn't travel. This is not the way. Why sign an undertaking? You can take it away when you have provided accomodation, too, but you have to sit down and talk to us. Management had filed affidavit in Supreme Court that all facilities will be provided to employees till retirement."
Recently, Tata Sons had won the Air India bid for Rs 18000 crore, along with subsidiaries Air India Express and AI SATS, its ground handling arm, in which Air India holds 50% equity share, which will be handed over to the new owner by December.
The engineering unions wrote to Kashyap and said that "staff quarters are given mostly to staff who do not have a house in Mumbai and are not paid HRA as well as monthly charges levied on them. If they are displaced from their homes, at the fag end of their service, they and their families will virtually be on the streets since they can't pay the huge rents or buy a house at exorbitant prices in Mumbai."
The unions have demanded that the notice be withdrawn, or they will go on indefinite strike from November 2.
Another group of unions, comprising of pilots and cabin crew, wrote to the Civil Aviation Secretary, Rajiv Bansal on Wednesday demanding redressal of pending employee issues, including medical benefits, payment of all arrears, and restoration of pre-Covid-19 emoluments. In their communication, they too raised alarm over having to sign an undertaking that they will vacate their residences in Air India colonies within six months of handover to Tata Sons, or will be compelled to pay a penalty of up to Rs 15 lakhs.
They wrote, "We urge you to intercede on behalf of the Air Indians who reside in these colonies to allow them to reside in them for a reasonable period of at least a year. Since the new buyer is providing employees with a one-year employment guarantee, the colony facility should at least be co-terminus with that date, if not until VRS is provided."
Air India currently has 12,085 employees, 8084 being permanent and 4001 contractual staff. Air India Express meanwhile has 1434 employees.
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