Air Traffic Services
Provision of Air Traffic services is the responsibility of the state and every contracting state to the International Convention of Civil Aviation, including India, has to meet this obligation. Prior to the formation of NAA till 1986, Govt. of India through its Dept. Of Civil Aviation was directly providing this service. On 1st June 1986 an autonomous body i.e. National Airports Authority was formed for provision of Air traffic Services. On 1st April 1995 a new body was formed which was called Airports Authority of India by merging erstwhile International airports Authority of India and National Airports Authority. Thus the provision of Air Traffic Services was brought within the fold of AAI.
Terms and conditions of employment Rules and Regulations
In accordance with the provision of AAI Act of 1994, within a period of one year (extendable by one more year) of its formation, Airports Authority of India was required to formulate and implement its service rules and regulations under which the employees of AAI who were transferred from NAA & IAAI were to be governed. However, the AAI failed to make its service rules and regulations within the stipulated period. Despite reminders on the issue by ATC Guild these rules/regulations have not been framed so far.
Air Traffic Controllers right from the beginning have been subjected to grave and irreparable injustice and Air Traffic Controllers' Guild (India) as an all India body of ATCOs have been regularly submitting their requests (demands) from 1990 onwards but without any success. The Guild gave various notices of agitation but the same were not implemented by the Guild in view of the importance of Air Traffic Services for the country and also with a hope that their problems will be heard and solved. In view of the aforesaid and uncooperative and negative attitude of AAI, the Guild submitted a charter of Demands on 1st May 1995 asking for rationalisation of the service conditions of ATCOs commensurate with their job responsibility.
The matter in the Court - dispute - discussions
However, instead of addressing to the problems of ATCOs, the AAI filed a suit for perpetual and mandatory injunction in the Honourable High Court of Delhi restraining the ATCOs from resorting to agitation and also sought intervention of Chief Labour Commissioner. It was agreed on 7th June 1996 before the Labour Commissioner that AAI would negotiate all issues with regard to said service conditions with the Guild to arrive at an amicable solution. Similarly during the proceedings of 6th January 1997, Honourable Delhi High Court also advised AAI to negotiate the matter with Guild and settle the issue.
Refusal by AAI to discuss & negotiate the matter
Despite these instructions Airports Authority of India refused to discuss or negotiate the issue with Guild. On 24th January 1997 ATC Guild submitted a revised Charter of demands keeping in view the changes since 1995. After intervention from Minister of Civil Aviation Airports Authority of India had a meeting with ATC Guild on 4th Feb1997, and asked for two months time to reply to the demands of the Guild.
Merger of IAAI & NAA
Meanwhile the Expert Committee, which was formed to work out modalities for the merger of IAAI and NAA, submitted its report, which did not contain anything with regard to the ATCOs and compared the job as equal to any other in the Airports Authority of India.
Frustration of ATCOs
Having seen such an unbearable treatment being meted out to the ATCOs the Guild lodged a strong protest and demanded that the conditions of service of the ATCOs shall be as per their Charter of Demands which is based on the Recommendations of ICAO and ILO. All ATCOs in the employment of AAI, submitted through ATC Guild (India) to the AAI, that they do not wish to join AAI, unless AAI agrees to make terms and conditions of their service as per their Charter of Demands, and that their service to
Airports Authority of India will cease after 31st March, 1997.
31st March 1997
With this resolve on 31st March 1997 letters from all the ATCOs in the employment of Airports Authority of India were presented to the Chairman of Airports Authority of India. At that juncture Chairman of Airports Authority of India proposed that,
(i) a Committee will be formed which will submit its report within period of three months,
(ii) Airports Authority of India will discuss and negotiate the Charter of Demands within a period of one month, and,
(iii) an interim relief in the form of certain six allowances will be provided within a period of one week to one month.
Recommendations of this committee, which were to be of specific nature concerning ATCOs only, were to be implemented immediately.
The Julka Committee
Committee submitted its report on 1st Sept 1997. Even after submission of the report by the committee, which was proposed and formed by Airports Authority of India on its own with members of its own choice. Airports Authority of India remained extremely reluctant to even supply copy of the Report to Guild, which was provided to Guild only when issue became public and Guild threatened for Direct action.
Review of the Charter of Demands
On 2nd November, 1998 a review of Charter of Demands was submitted, to the Airports Authority of India in the light of reports submitted by the Julka Committee and Honourable Justice Lahoti Court of Enquiry.
From 1st Feb 1999 ATC Guild (India) launched a Satyagraha as protest against the partisan and anti ATC attitude of the Airports Authority of India management. During the Satygraha members of Guild (ATCOs) stopped taking their own initiatives, although continued working according to the laid down norms and procedures, keeping air safety as the foremost objective in mind.
As was evident from the weather conditions in the month of Jan and Feb 1999, and which can be substantiated with ample evidence there was tremendous fog all over Delhi which severely disrupted the Airline schedules resulting into unavoidable delays.
At Delhi apart from the dense fog, withdrawal of the Instrument Landing System from the main runway and the faults of the Raytheon system were mainly responsible for the aforesaid delays.
At Mumbai already congested traffic of Mumbai was additionally burdened with traffic being diverted from Delhi due fog increasing the congestion manifolds. The closure of various taxiways at the airport led to increase the runway occupancy time, which increased cumulative delays to the operations at Mumbai.
Campaign by AAI to malign the ATCOs and Guild
The AAI instead of trying to resolve the whole issue en-cashed on the circumstances mentioned above and launched a media campaign of misinformation regarding the genuine demands of ATCOs and causes of delay of flights which in fact were beyond the control of ATCOs. In none of the communications Guild had ever demanded any pay-parity with the Pilots of
Air India or Indian Airlines, but AAI published advertisements to this effect in various news-papers and almost everyone believed it to be so. Since ATC Guild can not match the money-power of AAI used for mud slinging, ATCOs were not in position to place any advertisement, contradicting the wrong and mala-fide statements made by AAI.
The matter in the Court now
Airports Authority of India on 16th Feb.1999 vide CCP no. 20/1999 prayed to the Honourable High Court of Delhi to issue notices of Contempt of Court against executive members of Air Traffic Controllers' Guild (India). The matter was listed for hearing on 19th February 1999.
The Summary Dismissal of the Six ATCOs
On 18th February 1999, Airports Authority of India management dismissed six members of the Air Traffic Controllers' Guild (India) without any inquiry or the procedure, denying them any
chance. The officers were also given notice for vacating the official accommodation within 24 hours. Airports Authority of India, to terrorise further the ATCOs and their families, filed FIRs against these six officers on various false and fabricated charges. This shows the attitude of Airports Authority of India management in dealing with the just and genuine long pending demands of Air Traffic Controllers' Guild (India) members.
Continued co-operation by the ATCOs
Though Air Traffic Controllers' Guild (India) never threatened to embark upon any strike putting a full stop to the air-services in India. AAI took these measures of sacking the ATCOs with only intention to force ATCOs to take such harsh steps, because then AAI would have been in position to malign the ATC Guild (India) further.
ATCOs despite these worst provocations by AAI did not resort to any strike etc. keeping in mind the public interest and the national pride.
AAI on its part despite being fully aware that the contingency plan will not be able to support the air-services, before serving the orders of dismissals to the six ATCOs had ordered to put contingency plan into effect, and had declared a substantial reduction in the air traffic services.
Member officers of the Guild (ATCOs) did not abide by this order of the AAI and continued to provide the services. Because sudden reduction of services, and substantial increase in the separation between aircraft as was envisaged in this so-called fool-proof plan, was not only impossible to achieve, but any effort to do so would have led to the serious dangers to the safety of aircraft.
ATC Guild (India) had already instructed all the members to ensure that there is no compromise with the safety of air-operations, at any time, and that no member should act at any time in contravention to the procedures laid down regarding ATC, and thus continue to abide by the instructions of the Honourable High Court of Delhi and Calcutta.
Subsequent to the receiving of the order dated 16th February 1999 of the Honourable High Court of Delhi on 17th February 1999 Guild again instructed all the officers to abide by the instructions of the Honourable Court.
On 19th February 1999 ATC Guild (India) on its own has submitted an assurance to the Honourable High Court of Delhi that the members of the Air Traffic Controllers' Guild (India) have been abiding and will continue to abide by the directions of the Honourable Court of Delhi.
Reinstatement of the Dismissed ATCOs
On 2nd November 2006, Honourable Division Bench of Delhi High
Court ordered that all six dismissed ATCOs be reinstated without break
in service on 13th November 2006. The seven and half year long struggle
by the Guild ultimately bore fruit.