Casual workers of Air India are on the war path, trying to organize their own union to assert their rights. They want to be recognised as regular workers with all the rights of the regular workers who do the same work they do. The nearly 500 workers working in Chennai for Air India have taken the lead. They are part of roughly 2,500 casual workers hired by Air India at the different airports across the county.
These workers work as commercial helpers and drivers. They perform many useful functions for services of Air India. Commercial helpers work in engineering maintenance, ground support department, customs, administration and other departments of Air India. They also perform loading and unloading of luggage of passengers, cargo handling, cleaning of the aircrafts, and movement of airplanes on the tarmac, etc. in day and night shifts round the clock. Drivers drive the passenger and cargo vehicles around the runways and surrounding roads following the strict rules and discipline. Till recently, they also used to provide transport for the cabin crew members in a safe and reliable manner. The casual workers of Air India follow various strict safety and security rules and regulations to ensure the Air India flights are safe, comfortable as well as operated on time. Their services are also deployed for many private airlines such as Emirates, Lufthansa Cargo, etc by the Air India management.
Air India management has been keeping these workers who play such responsible function as casual workers for the last 20-30 years. To avoid making them permanent, management does not permit any one to work over 6 months in a year. Once workers complete 6 months of work in a year, they are sent out on a compulsory break and they are allowed to resume work only after 6 months. These casual workers are paid a pittance for each day of their hard labour. They do not receive any DA or any other allowances. They get paid single overtime instead of the mandatory double overtime. They do not receive any additional night time or early morning allowances, paid to the permanent workers. When the casual workers are forced to work beyond one shift, they are not provided with the 11 hour break before they can resume their next duty. They are not provided with Provident Fund. They are not provided with the necessary uniforms, safety boots, ear plugs and other job necessities by the management. Casual workers are forced to buy them out of their own resources. They do not enjoy any holidays, paid leave, medical facilities or medical insurance. Workers who die or are maimed in accidents while working are not provided with any compensation or medical treatment.
The management of Air India, which is a Public Sector Undertaking, is blatantly using the loopholes in the labour laws, to super exploit these workers. This, when the work carried out by these casual workers is of a permanent nature, and of the same kind as carried out by regular employees.
The casual workers of Air India met in the first week of September and took the decision to step up their struggle for their rights. MEL fully supports their just struggle. MEL calls upon the unions of Pilots, Cabin Crew, Ground Handling Staff and other Air India Unions to assist the casual workers of Air India in winning their rights.