Page last updated at 06:52 GMT, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Indian airport workers on strike

New airport in Bangalore
The new airport in Bangalore is due to open next month

Thousands of Indian airport workers, including baggage handlers and ground staff, have gone on strike in protest at the privatisation of two airports.

So far, there has been no major disruption, but some cancellations and delays are expected later in the day.

Private airports are due to replace government facilities in the southern cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad soon.

Workers say some staff will lose their jobs, while others will have to move to other cities for work.

The new airports have been built by private companies and under the agreement with the builders, the existing facilities have to be closed down before the new ones become operational.

The civil aviation ministry has rejected demands to keep the old facilities open.

Two of the country's busiest airports, New Delhi and Mumbai, are privately run and were not affected by the strike.


At midnight, some 14,000 workers began their protest at 127 government-run airports.

In some cities, groups of workers have turned up at the airport, but have refused to do any work.

Trade union leaders representing workers said they were not on strike, but their protest was a form of "non-co-operation movement".

We only want to show our disapproval to the government
Pramod Kumar Sharma
Union leader

"It is a non-co-operation movement and not a strike, in which we will come to work but will not work," news agency Reuters quoted Airport Authority Employees Union leader Pramod Kumar Sharma as saying.

"We only want to show our disapproval to the government and want to show to the entire country how the government retracts on its promises," he said.

So far, the protest has not had much of an impact.

"Everything is normal. No flights are delayed," Pram Nath, general manager for the Airport Authority of India, which oversees the state-run airports, told the Associated Press news agency.

"There is nothing to worry about. It will be a minor incident."

The government has declared the protest illegal and promised that passengers would not be inconvenienced.

Heavy security arrangements have been made at international airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

Air force personnel have been deployed at some airports to deal with any emergency.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has said the government is determined to close down Bangalore and Hyderabad airports as they lack proper facilities.

The workers belong to the state-controlled Airports Authority of India and want the government to assure them that no jobs will be lost after the airports are privatised.

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