Air India lurches from one crisis to another. It is the workers of Air India who are being forced to bear the brunt of the crisis on their backs. For nearly two years, the 40,000 workers of Air India have been faced with delayed salary payments. The wages for March 2012 were paid to the workers in June. The handing over of ground handling operations to SATS, a private multinational, has meant that many of the ground staff of Air India are without work. The Dharmadhikari Committee set up by the government in the wake of the pilots strike in May 2011 has said that about 7,000 employees of the merged Air India could lose their jobs. All the workers of Air India — pilots, cabin crew, engineering and maintenance staff, other ground handling staff, are extremely worried about their future. They are being forced to take the path of struggle.
Air India and Indian Airlines were merged 5 years ago in 2007. The government pushed through the merger without taking the unions of the workers of the two airlines into confidence. This policy of ignoring the unions has continued since the merger. The management of Air India has deliberately pushed workers into going on strikes, at different times. What this reveals is that the government is not bothered about the health of the airline, or about its workers. It is in fact preparing grounds for its liquidation and privatization.
The assets of Air India are enormous, in terms of land, of aircraft and ground handling facilities, as well as in terms of skilled man power. Yet it is being deliberately termed as loss making, in order to create conditions to sell it off cheaply. The government's push to open up the airline sector for FDI is an indication of its privatization plans.
The main obstacle to this course has been the militant opposition of the 40,000 workers of this airline. The plans of the management and government have been repeatedly exposed. The government has even been forced to change the Civil Aviation Minister twice in the past two years, as well as to replace the former CMD of Air India.
The fact that there are two sets of unions in Air India for the different categories of workers such as pilots, cabin crew, engineering staff etc, there are two sets of promotion rules and two sets of working conditions, has been used by the management and the government to drive a wedge amongst workmen and push through their anti worker agenda. Ever since the merger, different unions of workers of Air India have agitated for their legitimate grievances. Management and government have always tried their level best to isolate the fighting workers, by portraying their demands as against the interests of other sections.
The present situation demands of all the unions of Air India that they unite as one against the onslaught of the government. Workers must uphold the principle "An attack on one is an attack on all". At the present time, the Indian Pilots Guild is under attack, and it has been "derecognized". All workers organizations of our country must demand the reinstatement of the dismissed pilots of Air India, and the re-recognition of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG).