Notwithstanding a warning by the Air India management, employees of the national carrier 'walked out' of work for two hours this afternoon as part of their nationwide protest against delayed payment of salaries.
The protest, called by Aviation Industry Employees Guild, Air Corporation Employees Union and some other unions, saw employees come out of their offices in Delhi and Mumbai and stage demonstrations from 1 pm, besides threatening to boycott meetings with the management.
Around 300 employees, carrying red flags, assembled in front of the old terminal in Delhi, shouting slogans against the management and demanding immediate payment of salaries.
"The government cannot defer the salary as per the Payment of Wages Act. It must pay the salary by July 10. The company is not following the rules and regulations and taking decisions which is not in the interest of the employees," J B Kadiyan, general secretary, ACEU, said.
In Mumbai, AIEG General Secretary George Abraham said, "We are staging a walkout and a demonstration for two hours as the management has failed to honour its commitment given to the unions to pay our June salaries by today."
There were no reports of any disruption of AI services from the airport due to the protest.
The workers went ahead with their strike despite a staff notice issued earlier in the day by AI warning that 'any participation in the illegal strike would be viewed seriously and appropriate action, including deduction of wages and withdrawal of productivity-linked incentive till further orders, will be taken.'
Warning them of 'firm' action if flights were disrupted and passengers inconvenienced, the staff notice said the agitation by the Joint Action Forum would violate the Industrial Disputes Act and would be 'tantamount to an illegal strike.'
Last night, AI CMD Arvind Jadhav had written to the employees that besides wages and salary payments every month, fuel and bank liabilities like interest and principal payments, have to be paid on time.
However, the unions blamed the management of 'going back on their word' to pay the salaries by Friday.
The unions had called off their proposed strike on June 30 after the management agreed to pay the salaries of 70 per cent of the workers by today. They were protesting the earlier decision of the management to defer the June salary to the middle of this month.
Kadiyan alleged that the company is being "damaged systematically by certain vested interests who want to sell Air India off. This we will never allow."
He also demanded a CBI enquiry into Air India's plan to buy 68 aircraft for Rs 6,000 crore (Rs 60 billion) when its annual budget is Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion).
"When Air India's total budget of is Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion), why did it decide to buy aircraft worth Rs 6,000 crore (Rs 60 billion). Air India has plans to purchase 24 aircraft and Indian Airlines has plans to buy 43 aircraft. But, later, Air India changed its fleet plan and within 24 weeks firmed a plan to buy 68 aircraft," he said.