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AAI Employees Stage Nationwide Demonstration in Protest Against Austerity Measures

Ronak Chhabra |
As per the joint body of the employees, the AAI management is scheduled to meet on July 7 to “take decision on perks and allowances deferment”.
AAI employees stage demonstration outside their regional headquarters in Mumbai. Courtesy - Special Arrangement

AAI employees stage demonstration outside their regional headquarters in Mumbai. Courtesy - Special Arrangement

Thousands of employees of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) staged demonstrations in their lunch hour at airports across the country on Tuesday, July 6, to protest against the austerity measures proposed by the management in the wake of pandemic-triggered challenges.

Led by the Joint Forum of Unions and Associations of AAI, a coming together of employees’ unions of the airport body, the employees demanded a roll back of the proposed measures while arguing that the “mental agony of employees will be elevated if the measures are effected”.

The management of AAI, a statutory body that is responsible for creating and maintaining civil aviation infrastructure in the country, had earlier proposed a deferral in payment of salary and perks, with the latter amounting to about 35% of the employees’ basic pay, among others.

The decision was reportedly inspired after the AAI, that currently manages over 100 airports across the country with about 17,000 employees on its roll, incurred losses – first time since its inception –  in the financial year 2021.

As per the joint body of the employees, the management is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to “take decision on perks and allowances deferment.”

Balraj Singh Ahlawat, convenor of the joint forum told NewsClick on Tuesday that as many as 3,000 to 4,000 AAI employees demonstrated at all the 100 AAI-managed airports across the country today. The demonstrations were held in a peaceful manner and with adherence to COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), he added.

“The employees were forced to protest today because of the adamant stand of the management till now. The round of discussion with the employees [on the proposed measures] was not discussed at all. It was an information session arranged merely to inform us about the intention of the management,” Ahlawat told NewsClick over phone from Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan at the Safdarjung Airport in the national capital.

Also read: As Privatisation of More Airports Hits Runway, Jittery AAI Staff Plans Protest Action

A demonstration was staged here as well as part of the nationwide programme on Tuesday. The building that houses the Civil Aviation Ministry also serves as the office headquarters for the AAI.

The joint body of the AAI employees had earlier, while rejecting the austerity measures, submitted its own set of recommendations to the AAI management to deal with the financial stress, and demanded the latter to constitute an expert committee to “study and analyse” its recommendations.

Among them, the employees had proposed to defer the capital expenditure on airport infrastructure for a period of two years, and that on the development and maintenance of residential colony, community centre and allied amenities “till such time that AAI revenue reached profitable curve”.

Additionally, they had also recommended that steps be initiated to collect dues from airlines and private airport operators, along with claiming back the AAI’s reserved cash that was “withdrawn by the government”.

Meanwhile, in a letter dated July 5, signed by AAI’s General Manager (HR), the AAI management had requested the unions to refrain from holding lunch hour demonstrations. “It is unfortunate to observe that the leadership of Jt Forum has served upon AAI the notice for holding lunch hour demonstration… despite holding rounds of discussions on the issue with Top Management of AAI, which are under consideration,” the letter read.

On Tuesday, Ahlawat argued that the demonstrations would have been called off only if the management decided to “defer” its board meeting, scheduled on Wednesday. “However, we received no such assurance so we went ahead with our protest action,” he said.

Also read: How Modi Bypassed Norms to Try and Enable Adani’s Entry into Airport Business

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