The state-run, defence Public Sector Unit, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is on a complete halt since Monday after more than 90 percent of its workforce went on an indefinite strike. HAL founded in 1940 has five productions units in Bengaluru, Odisha, Lucknow in UP, Nashik in Maharashtra and Hyderabad, and has four research and development units across India.
The workers of all the nine units have joined the strike announced by the All India HAL Trade Unions Coordination Committee which is coordinating this strike. Mr. S. Chandrasekhar, the General Secretary of all 9 trade unions of HAL said that they have called the indefinite strike to demand fair wage revisions which are due for more than 2 years and some other demands including raise in perks.
Trade Union says that management misleading public and media.
Mr. Chanrasekhar countered a statement by the HAL management calling the strike as illegal and demands untenable. The management said that since HAL is a Defence Unit falling under public utility services under the Industrial Disputes Act, such a strike is illegal. Mr. Chandrasekhar said that the union gave enough time to the management for resolving the issue and had also duly informed the Labour Commissioner before announcing the strike.
HAL’s statement also said that the management has made a reasonable offer which is made keeping in mind the conditions at other PSUs in this sector. It further states that the Union’s demands are ‘unsustainable’ given the “current and future business scenario”. Mr. Chandrasekhar disagrees and cites the last Annual General Meeting of the company where the management told the shareholders that HAL has tuned a profit of Rs 2,282 crore with a record turnover of Rs. 19,400 crores.
Bone of contention
The Unions demand raise in the workers’ pay scales in conformity with the raise given to the officers of HAL. The management says that it is not justified to revise the workers’ wages at par with the executives as the latter’s salary revision in 2017 was done after the stipulated 10 year period from 1st January 2007. The workers’ wages have been revised twice between this period, first in 2007 and then in 2012 maintaining five-year revision periodicity, according to the management.
However, the union defied the management’s claim terming it a “blatant lie” and said that the workers’ wages were not revised twice but were effected in two parts. Mr. Chandrasekhar said that it is equivalent to dividing the benefits of a single revision into two parts rather than being two separate revisions. The Union’s stand is that a fair wage revision should reflect a gross increase in the earnings of the workers.
Unions allege that there is discrimination in the wage growth rate of workers and officers. According to the Union’s statement, the increase in gross pay of officers is 35 percent and increase in perks is 110 to 115 percent while the workers are forced to accept a meagre 6 percent growth in gross pay. Mr. C.B. Ananthakrishnan, HAL Director (Finance) said that the workers would get an average hike of 17 percent after the wage revisions. The Unions have demanded 15 percent revision in fitment benefit and 35 percent in the perks.
HAL cites high labour costs at 24 percent of the total revenue which is above the industry standard of 15 to 16 percent and concerns of business sustainability keeping in mind cost-competitive nature of the industry for not acceding to the Unions’ demands. The Unions, on the other hand, maintain that the management is discriminative and has long ignored genuine demands of the workers forcing them to resort to this indefinite strike.
While Mr. Ananthakrishnan, on behalf of the management appealed, “We hope the employees withdraw the protest keeping in mind the national security and serviceability of defence force in mind”. Mr. Chandrasekhar responded, “If their contention is that we are against the national interest, they are also equally responsible for this”.
The strike which commenced on Monday is still continuing since both the employee’s union and the management are resolute on their respective stands. Despite a series of meetings between HAL management and the Unions as well as the All India HAL Trade Unions Committee, the resolution seems afar. The deadlock may continue for the next few days until either the government intervenes or parties reach an agreement.