Airport strike off; fresh rounds of talks to continue

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New Delhi, Mar 13 (UNI) The 15,000-strong Airport Authority of India (AAI) workforce returned to work this evening as their 'non-cooperation' stir to protest closure of existing Hyderabad and Bangaluru airports ended following talks with the Civil Aviation ministry.

The Airport Authority Employees' Union (AAEU) had gone on an indefinite from the midnignt of March 12.

The decision to call-off the strike came after assurance from the Aviation Ministry to check viability of old airport at Hyderabad.

All the 127 national and international airports across the country had joined the strike but the 'non-cooperation' had failed to affect flights. The striking workers mostly belonged to the ground staff and housekeeping departments.

Employee leaders said here that the talks between Airport Authority Employees' Union and the Civil Aviation ministry would continue. ''If the government does not clarify the final position by May 31, 2008, the strike will be revised,'' AAEU leaders said, after ending the meeting with aviation authorities.

The agitation began after one round of talks between the employees and the Civil Aviation Ministry failed to end the deadlock over the demands of the employees. The demands were for withdrawal of the government's decision to close existing airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad, after new airports there become operational.

Soon after the Bangalore International Airport was inaugurated, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had said the old airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad would be used only for emergency and defence purposes.

The employees had earlier deferred their strike till March 10 following talks with the Ministry last month.

The Delhi government had imposed Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to ensure that the flights were not hit. Over 500 IAF personnel were also alerted to provide backup if the stir continued for long.

In Parliament yesterday, Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel had assured that the interests of the Airport Authority of India employees at Hyderabad and Bangalore Airports would be fully protected and the two airports would continue to remain operational for general aviation, defence purposes and national emergencies.

In his statement, the minister said the two state governments had approached the Centre in 1990s seeking the construction of Greenfield airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore in view of problems posed by traffic growth and the constraints at the existing airports.

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