Employees of national carrier Air India went on a two-hour strike at airports across the country from 1 p.m. in protest against the delay in salary payments despite a warning from the management that this would entail a pay cut.
"We have gone on a two-hour strike. We will continue the agitation tomorrow as well," said Anand Prakash, the joint secretary of Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU), the largest union of the Air India employees. "We are holding demonstrations at all airports," Prakash said.
Unfazed by the development, the Air India management said action would be taken against striking employees. It also said flight schedules will not be affected.
"We will take action and cut salaries if employees go on strike. We cannot be held at ransom," said a spokesperson of the airlines.
"They will get their salaries in a day or two. I don't see any reason for employees going on strike if disbursement of salaries are delayed by a day or two. This delay is because we are identifying those who should get the salaries first," he said.
"We have made adequate arrangements to ensure that our flights are not delayed," the spokesperson added. The first tranche of payments will go to lower grade employees, while the others will be paid July 15.
But employees are unimpressed, and maintain that the management had backtracked from its June 29 commitment that salaries would be paid July 3.
"If they (airline management) have delayed salary by a day or two, why don't they give this in writing?" asked ACEU general secretary J.B. Kadian. Various unions have also demanded a meeting with the management.
Air India is in a financial mess having incurred a loss of Rs.4,000 crore last fiscal, forcing Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel to approach Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a Rs.10,000-crore (about $2-billion) bailout package for the beleaguered carrier.
The prime minister has in turn suggested that National Aviation Co, which owns Air India, undertake cost-cutting measures to improve its financial condition.