The indefinite strike staged by the workers of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the national aerospace and defence company headquartered in Bengaluru, entered its fifth day Friday, making it perhaps the longest strike the company has witnessed.
The All India HAL Trade Unions Coordination Committee (AIHALTUCC), which is organising the strike at nine locations across seven states, is demanding a “fair” wage revision effective from January 1, 2017 among other issues. According to the protesters, over 19,600 employees of aerospace public sector undertaking are determined to continue their strike until their demands are met.
Workers claim that their dues are yet to be settled even when compensation for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas built in HAL are being served at present.
“Our demand is on for 15 percent and 35 percent perks similar to what the executives have been receiving instead of the 10 percent and 18 percent slabs offered by the management. While other public service undertakings (PSUs) have revised wages in 2017, HAL is the only PSU that has been left out by the government. The agitations will continue until the government addresses our grievances,” Suryadev Chandrasekhar, general secretary of the Hindustan Aeronautics Employees Association (HAEA) told Indianexpress.com.
Authorities, meanwhile, continue to stand their ground saying that the management had already made a “fair and reasonable” offer which has not been accepted by the workers.
In a statement released Friday, Gopal Suttar, HAL spokesperson said, “HAL Unions continue to mislead and distort facts regarding the outcome of conciliatory proceedings held with labour commissioner authorities. The strike continues in spite of the advice of the labor authorities who have asked the Unions to desist from their indefinite strike and return to bilateral talks. Labour authorities have declared their strike as illegal.”
Incidentally, over eleven rounds of unsuccessful negotiations have taken place till date between the All India HAL Trade Unions Coordination Committee (AIHTUCC) and the HAL management in a bid to reach a consensus.
At the same time, VM Chamola, HR Director for HAL cited workers raising multiple demands as the reason behind the delay in negotiations since 2017. “While the process was delayed first due to demands pertaining to revising the periodicity of wage revision – the management wanted it to be every 10 years while the workers demanded it being done every five years. However, the workers reached a consensus on fixing it at 10 years later,” he said.
HAL authorities add that there is “no justification and rationale” in the demand of the Unions to extend the benefits (fitment benefit and allowances) on par or more than executives.
“The salary revision of executives was effected from January 1, 2017, after stipulated 10 year period. The increase in respect of officers with effect from January 1, 2017 needs to be compared with the base of January 1, 2007,” a statement released by HAL read.
“On the other hand, workmen have two wage revisions of five years periodicity during the same span. The revision needs to be settled keeping in view the increase derived by the officers from the 2007 scales to the 2017 scales and by the workmen from the 2007 scales to the 2012 scales and now 2012 to the 2017 scales,” HAL authorities stated.
On being asked why the company is certain on negotiating with the workers, authorities explained that the same is done to ensure the growth of the company for the next ten years.
“Even though the financial condition of the company, at present, is healthy, we need to understand that the same is due to the contracts and compensations for delivery we are now receiving for the products we signed in the past few years,” CB Ananthakrishnan, Director of Finance of HAL said.
In their latest statement, HAL authorities stated, “Further conciliation proceedings with labour authorities are scheduled to be held on October 29, 2019.”