Workers of Indian state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. go on indefinite strike

Several rounds of meetings called by the company’s management have failed to address the long pending workers’ demand of a wage hike and have been an eyewash, said the union coordination committee that is representing workers.

October 14, 2019 by Ronak Chhabra
HAL workers
20,000 workers of Indian aerospace giant HAL have gone on an indefinite strike, after several rounds of negotiations with the management over wage revisions reached a stalemate on Sunday. (Photo: Twitter)

Owing to the “discrimination” in salaries and perks, nearly 20,000 workers of the public  defense undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have gone on an indefinite strike starting from Monday, October 14. The workers’ front leading the strike, All India HAL Trade Unions Coordination Committee (AIHALTUCC), said that all the nine recognized unions will take part in the strike.

HAL is a government owned defense and aerospace company, the largest of India’s nine defense PSUs, that was set up after the 1962 India-China war. It is engaged in the production of fighter jets primarily for the Indian air forces. While still profitable, being depleted of orders following 2020, an impending crisis is expected at the aeronautic company. 10% of its stakes have also been sold off by the Indian defense ministry in 2018.

Meanwhile, according to the AIHALTUCC, the company’s management has “failed” in coming forward with fair offers to settle the long pending wage revision of its workmen.

The main contention is the difference in the salary increments of the executives and the workers. The workers have been offered 10% and 19% fitment and perks, respectively, as against the executives, who are being awarded with 15% fitment and 35% perks.

Surya Devra Chandrashekhar, the chief convener of AIHALTUCC, told NewsClick that the management is trying to “misguide” the workers regarding the poor financial health of the public sector unit in order to justify the difference in salary increments of the workmen and the executives.

“The burden is being shifted only to the workmen,” he said, adding that the AIHALTUCC has stated in meetings that the reason of affordability is not acceptable, since this factor was not considered at the time of wage revision of the executives which constitutes half of manpower cost to the company.

In addition to this, it is also the delay in wage revision that has “forced” the workmen to take up the path of agitation. The wage revision of the workers is pending since 2017. Around 11 rounds of talks over a period two years between the committee and the management have failed in providing a consensus, in which the management has called the demand “unjustified.”

The HAL management responded on Sunday saying it had made all out efforts to find an amicable solution.

“Despite the management’s concerted efforts towards bringing an amicable and early wage settlement, unions unfortunately have adopted a recalcitrant approach and did not accept the offer and decided to resort to indefinite strike,” it said in a statement.

NewsClick contacted HAL’s Human Resource Director Vinay Mohan Chamola, who is also the Chairman of the wage revision committee, according to whom, the management has been trying to find a solution and the last two meetings—on Saturday and Sunday—were called to reach a consensus and avoid the strike.

However, calling the conciliatory meetings a mere “eyewash”, Chandrashekhar told NewsClick that the management calls for meetings but fails to offer anything to settle the issue.

“It was difficult for all the union leaders to attend meetings at such a short notice and the management does it to break the unity of the unions which have unanimously decided to observe the strike across the nation in seven states,” he added.