KOCHI: In a move that could affect the smooth functioning of Cochin International Airport (CIAL), over 4,000 contract workers are planning to go on strike seeking an increase in salary, making their employment permanent and upgrading basic facilities at their work stations. They plan to hold a protest meet at the airport on March 19.
The employees, working for companies contracted by CIAL to carry out various works at the airport, are planning to launch the strike under CITU-affiliated CIAL Employees Union. Employees Union general secretary N C Mohanan said CIAL must address the issues faced by contract staff. “The airport has won a lot of national and international awards for its progressive way. It is a company that has been reporting a profit of Rs 200 crore annually. We are very proud of its achievements. However, the plight of the contract employees working at the airport if not addressed will take the shine off its glory,” he said.
“Employed by 16 companies, 4,000 contract staff have been working right from the airport inauguration. They have spent their time and energy to make it a successful venture. But low salary and lack of job security are making the lives of these workers unbearable,” he said. According to him, the protest is being launched to highlight the misery of these workers who are being exploited by the companies.
According to him, it is the responsibility of CIAL and also the Labour Commissioner to look into the irregularities being committed by the contract companies. “At present, contract workers are being paid only the minimum wage of Rs 10,300 even though they do the same if not more work than the permanent staff of the airport. The government and CIAL need to ensure that these workers are paid a minimum salary of Rs 18,000,” said Mohanan.
According to him, the staff have been even denied basic facilities like a restrooms. “Since our repeated requests to the labour department and the CIAL have not yielded any results, the employees will be holding a protest meet at the airport on March 19,” he said. Meanwhile, CIAL authorities said they will look into the demands raised by the Union regarding the salary hike and making their jobs permanent. “However, there are technical problems associated with it.
But in the case of the issue raised by the union regarding the canteen, we firmly believe that the food being served is of very good quality and is also affordable,” said the authorities. According to them, no discrimination is made between regular and contract staff. “From where else will you get to have food at a nominal rate of Rs 5,” they asked.