The carrier’s employees in staff accommodation in Mumbai and Delhi are staring at a July 26th eviction deadline. With the deadline fast approaching, Air India’s workers who risk being evicted from staff quarters have come to the Bombay High Court to challenge the decision.
Air India has been at loggerheads with employees residing in company accommodations in Mumbai and Delhi for months now. With just a month left for the eviction deadline, the worker unions are now taking the legal route.
The central government
In May, India’s central government had asked Air India to remind its workers residing in Delhi’s Vasant Vihar and Mumbai’s Kalina areas to vacate the premises by July 26th. The decision had been taken even before Air India’s sale to the Tatas when the government decided that Air India’s land and colonies in these places would have to be vacated within six months after the privatization process is complete.
Since then, the airline has been locked in a disagreement with its employees residing in these places, who feel it’s challenging to move out of the apartments they’ve been living in for years. Last month’s deadline notice did not go down well with the staff members staying there, with worker unions protesting the move and preparing to approach the High Court against the eviction notices.
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The airline’s unions have now moved to the Bombay High Court to challenge the impending eviction next month. The unions are arguing that Air India’s letter violates the Industrial Disputes Act, as asking employees to vacate office accommodation by July 26th amounts to a difference in service condition.
- Separate writs have been filed by multiple unions, such as the Aviation Industry Employees Guild (AIEG), Air Corporation Employees Union (ACLU), and All India Service Engineers Association (AISEA), all demanding the revoking of the airline’s October and May letters to staff.
As said by a Business Standard report, the AIEG told in its petition,
“The allotment of accommodation is provided till retirement/cessation of service, according to the AI allotment authorities. There is no provision for any unilateral and arbitrary termination as is sought to be in the present case.”
The service engineers also told that Air India could not have given a letter seeking vacation of flats pending the conclusion of conciliation proceedings, which eventually failed.
Air India’s land and other properties were transferred to a Special Purpose Vehicle- Air India Asset Holdings Limited (AHL) during the privatization discussion and were never a part of the agreement with the Tatas.
Air India was on life help as a state carrier with an entire debt of approx. $8 billion. While the Tata Group took on approx. $1.9 billion, all the rest were moved to AIAHL. The AIAHL wants to reclaim the property, as it plans to sell them to pay for the debt that it took on during the sale.
With plenty of money at stake, AI warned of stern action in the memo is sent out to the workers last month, stating that failure to vacate the accommodation would make the staff members liable to pay a penal rent equivalent to the sum of normal occupancy charges and double the market rent for the time of unauthorized occupancy.
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