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Airports Authority of India employees to conduct ballot to take call on general strike

Sunday, 26 January 2014 - 12:19pm IST Updated: Sunday, 26 January 2014 - 12:24pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: PTI

With the government still going ahead on privatisation of six more airports despite general elections around the corner, state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees will conduct a "strike ballot" on February 10 to decide on a general strike against the move.

A strike ballot is a secret ballot conducted among members of a union to decide whether to go on a strike or not.

"The government is pushing the privatisation of airports in a great hurry despite the general elections scheduled in April-May this year.

"Political ethics demand that government should not move on this (policy) issue but it appears that political bosses are in a hurry to make the hay while the sun shines," Airports Authority Employees Union said in a release.

Stating that the government has persistently ignored various protests including relay hunger strike by the AAI employees over "throwing away national assets to corporates", the Union said, "We have no option but to go for a serious industrial action".

The union has, therefore, decided to conduct a strike ballot for going on general strike on February 10 across country's airports, the release said.

The date of strike will be decided on the outcome of the mandate, the Union said.

The government had in September 2013 decided to allow private parties to pick up 100 per cent equity stake in operation and management of six airports - Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Lucknow - through the PPP mode.

The Union has also warned that privatisation will only lead to higher airport taxes and higher airfares, as has happened in the case of Mumbai and Delhi airports, rather than doing any good to the exchequer or the air travellers.

The Union alleged the fresh move would reduce already shrinking revenue of the AAI due to privatisation of country's two busiest airports - Mumbai and Delhi.

The AAI unions in the past had urged government to hand over smaller airports to private companies for development than giving away high density traffic airports.

"We are also alarmed at the recent statement of Civil Aviation Minister and civil aviation secretary, wherein they have expressed hope completing the privatisation process before the model code of conduct comes into place," the union said.

Even a parliamentary panel had in a recent report opposed the airport privatisation, terming it as "using public property for private profits".

Instead of giving away the airports to private sector "on a platter", AAI should form a subsidiary or a special purpose vehicle to grant management contracts to entities having expertise in the field, the panel recommended.

"Privatisation of airports is a great dis-service being done to the country by this government. Public assets are being placed at the disposal for private operators... Undue haste is being shown in the process," CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury, who heads the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, had said. 


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