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Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Ground crew strike in

AP , NEW DELHI

About 12,000 ground crew of the state-owned Indian Airlines Limited have gone on strike, delaying dozens of flights across the country and stranding thousands of passengers, officials said yesterday.

The workers went on strike late on Tuesday night after talks broke down over their concerns that they may lose benefits following a planned merger with Air India, the country's main international carrier.

Flights from all major Indian cities were delayed or canceled, a senior Indian Airlines official said on condition of anonymity, citing company policy.

The head of the workers' union said the strike would continue indefinitely but added that they were open to further negotiations.

"We are ready for settlement. We are urging the management not to be adamant as we cannot put pressure on passengers. But we also have to find a solution to our problems," J.K. Badola, general secretary of the Air Corporation Employees' Union told the Press Trust of India news agency.

He said 12,000 ground crew were taking part in the strike.

Worst hit were flights to and from Mumbai and Calcutta and stranded passengers scrambled to switch to other airlines.

More than 3,000 ground staff, baggage handlers and a segment of the cabin crew of Indian airlines went on strike at Mumbai airport.

"Passengers have started switching to other airlines," said Manish Kalghati, an airport spokesman.

"They [Indian] have contract employees and officers handling check-in and baggage. But the numbers are not as many as those needed," Kalghati said. "We are helping them out with airport staff as much as we can."

In Calcutta all outgoing Indian Airlines flights were canceled, said S.K. Mishra, an airport official.

In New Delhi, flights were running two to five hours late as airplanes from other cities failed to arrive.

"I would never fly Indian [Airlines], but I have no choice," said J. Uttam Chandani, a businessman waiting at New Delhi airport for a flight to Jodhpur.

Indian Airlines is the only one to fly that route.

"I'm helpless," he said.

Delays were also reported from Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Indian Airlines mostly serves domestic routes but in recent years has started flying to selected destinations in Asia and the Middle East.

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