PROTESTING against non-payment of salaries, employees of Cambata Aviation Ltd and their family members staged a demonstration outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Monday. They said at least seven colleagues had ended their lives in the last six months. Workers of Cambata, the country’s oldest private ground-handling agency, said they feared many more might end their lives if the company did not clear their dues.
“My brother had been ill for quite long. While Cambata was paying a portion of the salaries in the past, they stopped paying it completely from February. Under stress, he jumped in front of a local train and ended his life,” said Sunita Bhodase, sister of Sunil Bhodase. Both had been Cambata workers for 20 years.
Sunita claimed despite repeated attempts to reach officials in the company, no help was received. “I tried to support mine and his medical requirements with some of my savings. After that, we had to rely on my husband’s income. The company cleared his gratuity only a week ago,” she said.
“There is no proper communication between Cambata officials and the airport authorities. Already, one of our colleagues who was sacked is under treatment. Delay in taking a speedy decision over clearing dues may cost more lives,” said a Cambata worker.
On August 9, company’s Chief Operating Officer A P Casserly wrote to employees not to report to work after it lost all airline ground-handling contracts to rivals Celebi and Bird Worldwide Flight Service. The workers had also objected to being denied entry to the airside by airport authorities last week.
In a protest staged by more than 2,000 workers from Cambata near the domestic terminal, they demanded reinstatement and clearing of all past salary dues and Provident Fund. “We feel cheated after being the oldest private ground handler for the airport authorities. The airport authorities have asked for a week’s time to consider giving us jobs in other ground-handling agencies or clearing our payments. Our protests will not stop till all our demands are met,” said Satya Prakash Singh, another Cambata worker.
The company said they were trying to resolve the issue through discussions. “We have been in talks with the workers for the past so many years. It is a continuous process and we are urgently trying to find solutions to their problems by either liquidising assets or through recovering deposits. Our preference will be to make sure that as many workers get back their dues,” said Casserly.