About 200 workers militantly protested against anti-worker Air India management at Chennai Meenambakkam Airport on 15th of February 2012.
Air India United Workers Union has organized this protest against the management of Air India, which has kept over 500 of these workers as casuals for the last 25 – 30 years. Workers have put up many posters and banners demanding the permanency of jobs and other key demands in the Airport area. Their union has also issued hundreds of leaflets denouncing the management of its anti-worker policies and calling on the workers to fight against this.
Com.Baskar, organizer of AIUWU and member of AIC of Makkalatchi Iyakkam (LRS) spoke in this agitation. He summarized the struggle of AI casual workers so far, attacks on their rights and the way forward to win them. Union’s legal adviser – Com. Pa. Venugopal, advocate of Chennai High court and spoke very militantly denouncing the attacks on the rights of the workers by the management of Air India. Com L.George, secretary of AAIEU (Airport Authority of India Employees Union) participated in the agitation, greeted the workers and extended his support for the just struggle of the workers. Comrade Madhavan – veteran trade union leader spoke of his experiences in fighting against the attacks of the capitalists and need of the workers to fight back unitedly. Com. Arul, one of the leaders of NAPM defended the just demands of the workers and expressed his full support to the militant struggle of the AI workers.
Leaders of the AIUWU, secretary – Com. D.Thiruganasambandam, Asst secretaries – Com. G.Suresh Kumar and Com V.Murugesan, President – Com. G.Thangaraj, Vice presidents – Com.J.Selvam and Com.M.Natarajan, Treasurer – Com.J.Yadhavraj and union activists – Com.L.Rafiq Ahamed, Com. Raja, C.Ellappan, Vai.Dayalan and many others spoke during the agitation. Comrades of Communist Ghadar Party of India – Ekambaram and Saravanan spoke in defense of the AI workers and their rights and assured their full support to the struggle.
Speakers mentioned that over 400 workers working with Air India are treated as Casuals for the last 20-30 years by Air India management. They work in Ground support, Engineering/maintenance, Customs, Transport, canteen, loading and unloading, commercials, operations and many other areas of Air India. They work in round the clock shifts ensuring uninterrupted services of Air India. They are provided with work for a maximum of 210 days in a year. Management is entrusting more and more work to contractors through outsourcing. It has already thrown out thousands of casual workers all over the country by privatizing the ground support work to SATS in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin, Mumbai and Delhi airports. After 25-30 years of experience in various areas of work of Air India operations, they are paid a paltry sum of Rs 275 per day. Besides the basic daily wages, these workers do not get any other allowance or pay. Even overtime payment is paid at basic rate and not at double as per norm. They are not covered under PF. They do not get holidays, medical facilities or medial insurance. Those workers who were killed or maimed while on duty are not paid any kind of compensation. Although Air India is a single organization, workers of erstwhile Air India are provided with 365 days of work in a year, whereas erstwhile Indian Airlines get only 210 days of work besides differences in their wage rates. While the assets of Air India have multiplied over the years due to the hard work put by the workers of AI, the condition of the workers and employees be it pilots, cabin crew, maintenance staff or the workers of Air India have deteriorated. Over 500 workers of Air India kept as casuals for the last 25 to 30 years is a stark example of this brutality of Air India management. National carrier claims that they do not have adequate funds to regularize the services of these workers!
On the other hand, Air India’s past CMD Arvind Jadhav and past Aviation minister Praful Patel have looted thousands of crores of rupees of Air India in various ways and saddled it with a cumulative loss of over 60,000 Crore Rupees. Air India’s management has given up 32 of its most profitable routes and best timings for the benefit of foreign airlines such as Lufthansa, Air Arabia and domestic private airlines such as Jet Airways and King Fisher. When Air India needed only 24 aircrafts, Praful Patel and Arvind Jadhav have ordered 111 Boeing 777 and 787 aircrafts. This deal has saved Boeing, the aircraft manufacturing American company from sinking, but sunk Air India as a loss making company! They also given Air India’s prime land in Kalina in Mumbai worth 65,000 Crore Rupees to the private company MIAL and prime lands of Air India in Delhi worth 35,000 Crore rupees to the private company DIAL, both free of cost! Similarly, they have handed over valuable ground handling assets of AI to SATS free of cost! Thus, they have made Air India bankrupt by their corrupt and criminal deeds. Air India-Indian Airlines, which was built and run by the Indian people’s tax money, is being looted and plundered by big capitalist corporations, ministers and by AI’s own executive directors! At the same time, this ‘public sector’ company brutally exploits and loots all sections of workers who work with them and denies them even just and basic labour rights. Denying permanency of job for these casual workers for decades together and not granting them all the legitimate rights is part of the attacks Air India carries out on the workers. Air India, in reality is serving the interests of the big private corporations in aviation and other related sectors. "Public sector" is nothing but an investment of the Indian people’s hard labour for supporting and facilitating the exploitation and loot by the big capitalists. At the right time, these capitalists also demand transfer of these public property into their kitty at throwaway cost as we can see happening in the case of BSNL and Air India.
Speakers pointed out that Indian constitution talks of protecting the livelihood of our people and human rights in its directive principles. However, in reality none of them ever gets implemented. On the contrary, these rights are brutally denied for vast majority of our people as can be seen in Air India casual workers. They pointed out that the order passed by the Chennai High court to offer permanent positions to these workers 10 years ago was totally ignored by the management with impunity. Speakers warned the workers that they should not rely on courts to get justice but rely on their own strength to fight vigorously to win their demands.
As King Fisher is in deep financial trouble, without even asked for, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come out and offered his help to Vijay Mallay, the capitalist of King Fisher and directed banks to offer the necessary funds. Whereas he has neither time nor any intention of offering what is rightfully belongs to the workers of Air India, even after hundreds of memos sent to him! It is very clear that the government and the system works only in the interests of the big capitalists, speakers concluded.
AI management is celebrating the productivity and innovation week and have set up a banner on their gate. As per the well-accepted management theories, productivity is a factor of 3M – Men, Machines and Materials. Of these the most important and value creating factor is the Human labour power. Speakers pointed out the sham interest of the management in productivity as they are throwing away the key factor in productivity viz. the value creating human labour power out on the streets! Any management would not mind a discussion with its staff and will try to find a solution. However, in the case of AI, they did not even bothered to meet the delegation of the agitating workers and listen to their demands. This shows where the management of this ‘public sector’ company stands! It does not even want to pretend to assuage the working people, let alone resolving their grievances!
All these point to the fact that the top management and the aviation ministry are determined and working over time to completely ruin Air India and sell it off to the demanding big capitalists such as Tatas, Jet Airways, Singapore Air lines, Lufthansa, etc. as scrape! The situation in Air India is same as BSNL and earlier in Modern Food Industries, Balco, etc. This is not only an attack on the staff and working people of Air India who have created this huge assets, but it is day light robbery of the assets of the Indian people. Hence not only workers, but also the entire Indian people must wake up to this loot and stop and punish those guilty of this crime. Speakers in particular demanded that ex aviation minister Praful Patel and ex CMD of Air India – Arvind Jadhav are arrested immediately and punished for the ruination of Air India operations and its assets. They unequivocally demanded that all the casual workers must be immediately offered permanent jobs with all other facilities.
Throughout the agitation, workers raised slogans demanding the permanency of their jobs and punishment of those responsible for the debacle of Air India. At the end of the day, union leaders have submitted their list of demands to the management of Air India.Through this daylong militant agitation, workers have shown that they are not willing to accept the injustice and are determined to escalate their struggle to win their jobs and all rights.