Airport workers withdraw mass casual leave



New Delhi: Operations at the AAI-run airports are likely to remain normal tomorrow after the employees today decided to withdraw their mass casual leave against the privatisation of Kolkata and Chennai airports.

The employees, owing allegiance to the Airports Authority Employees' Union (AAEU), had earlier decided to go on mass casual leave tomorrow to protest the proposed privatisation of Kolkata and Chennai airports "through the back door."

"We have decided to defer the mass casual leave call as AAI Chairman V P Agarwal has assured us that he would apprise the Civil Aviation Ministry about the sentiments of employees regarding privatisation of Kolkata and Chennai airports, and reopening of old Hyderabad and Bangalore airports," Balraj Singh Ahlawat, General Secretary AAEU said.

But we have decided to hold lunch-hour demonstrations at all the airports, he added.

The Civil Aviation Ministry recently decided to hand over the management of these two major airports, developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), to private parties through a global bidding process.

Alleging that the government's intention was to handover all major airports in the country to the corporates, Ahlawat said "almost 90 per cent of traffic come from major airports and if they too are privatised, then what will be left with us?"

The government, which has privatised Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad airports in 2006, recently decided to privatise the management of Kolkata and Chennai airports, which the AAI has developed and is operating.

"The government has accorded miniratna status to AAI but it is not allowing financial and administrative autonomy, as it is contemplating public-private partnership for operations of Chennai and Kolkata airports. AAI has invested more than Rs 5,000 crore on modernisation," Ahlawat said.

The AAEU is the largest union of the AAI employees with over 7,000 members.

PTI