Staff strike for wage revision grounds HAL operations

Bengaluru: An indefinite strike by about 20,000 employees of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for wage revision on Monday grounded the operations of the state-run defence PSU across the country, a labour union official said.

"The response to our strike call has been overwhelming with all the employees abstaining from work in the nine production locations across the country," HAL trade union General Secretary S. Chandrasekhar told IANS here.

The unions have sought a wage revision given to the executives, a gross salary hike of 35 per cent, and a 110-140 per cent hike in perks.

The wage revision is due since January 1, 2017, as the previous two revisions were in 2012 and 2007 for 5 years, respectively.

But the aircraft manufacturer offered only to enhance allowances under cafeteria system at 22 per cent for workmen in scale 1 to 10-20 per cent for workmen in special scale as against the uniform rate of 19 per cent offered earlier.

It also offered to revise rate of fitment benefit at 11 per cent.

But the unions turned it down.

"This is wage deduction but no wage revision. We need to go on par with the executives, wage revision means increase," said Chandrasekhar, regretting that some junior employees will be paid lesser than what they draw with the new wage hike offer.

A company official, however, claimed that majority of the employees reported to work at the Korwa avionics division in Uttar Pradesh, which Chandrasekhar refuted.

"Only contract employees reported for work in Korwa. All regular employees, including 10,000 in Bengaluru and the rest 10,000 at 8 locations across the country are on indefinite strike en masse," he claimed.

The 55-year-old aerospace major has production complexes in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Koraput in Odisha, Korwa, Kanpur and Lucknow in UP and Nashik and three research and development (R&D) centres across the country.

Refuting the management's claims, the union leader said it would be wrong to say the company was in a difficult financial situation to pay the employees more, but nor for its executives.

"It is incorrect to say HAL does not have a good order book position. Financial constraints is not true because in the annual general meeting (AGM), the management told shareholders that the company was doing good and healthy," Chandrasekhar said.

Terming the strike illegal, the company claimed that the employees were offered the best package revision.

"The trade unions have gone on illegal and indefinite strike even as conciliatory proceedings are on and against the advice of the labour authorities who want them (unions) to find solution without resorting to agitational means," said the company in a statement.

Asserting that the unions' demand for higher or similar fitment and allowances as in the case of executives had no rationale, the company said the executives got a wage hike after 10 years unlike the employees who were given wage revision for every 5 years in 2012 and 2007.

Chandrasekhar, however, said the workmen took only part hike after five years as the management mandated that they either take a full hike after 10 years or only part hike after five years.

"We chose the part wage revision twice after five year each but the management is claiming that we pocketed two full wage revisions," he said.

"The revision needs to be settled keeping in view the increase derived by the executives from 2007 to 2017 scales and by the employees from 2007 to 2012 scales and from 2012 to 2017 scales."

Chandrasekhar also said the management's refusal to consider their demands forced the employees to strike work at all the 9 locations, directly affecting the security and reputation of the country.

"The India Air Force (IAF) bases will be affected without our engineers who service, overhaul and repair the fighters. Military aircraft will be grounded, affecting preparedness and reputation," he said.

An official said a few days of tool down would not affect the production and there was no pressure from the customers.

"It is difficult to say which aircraft production will be hampered. Unless the strike is for a long time, there will be no affect," the official told IANS.

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