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Indian airport workers call off anti-privatisation strike


NEW DELHI (XFNews) - Airport workers on Saturday called off a four-day anti-privatisation strike that had created chaos at India's airports, after the government promised them job security.

The move came after the government made a written promise to union leaders that none of the employees of state-run Airports Authority of India would lose their jobs in the privatization of the New Delhi and Mumbai airports, the nation's biggest.

"In view of the assurances by the government I, as convenor, call off the strike," said MK Ghoshal, head of the New Delhi branch of the union, representing over 22,000 employees.

Ghoshal made the statement after a meeting here between Aviation Minister Praful Patel and union leaders.

The strike by the workers who handle cargo, baggage, cleaning and  maintenance, which began Wednesday, caused havoc at India's airports.

Patel said he assured the workers their jobs would be safeguarded and that "there will be no victimization of any employee" who took part in the strike.

However, leftist parties, who provide crucial outside support to the Congress Party-led government in parliament, remained defiant and said they would keep up the fight against the privatization of the airports.

The government is allowing takeovers by Indian-foreign consortiums as a way to raise funds to modernize the airports. The airports need a complete overhaul that the government has said could cost up to 4.5 bln usd.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Friday there would be no going back on the decision to privatize the airports.

Earlier this week, the government announced that India's GMR Industries and Germany's Fraport AG had won the bid to modernize Delhi airport. India's GVK group and the South African airport authority won the Mumbai airport deal.

Plans to privatize the airports have been stalled for years amid opposition by workers fearing job losses.

The consortiums have pledged to absorb 60 pct of the work force, while the Airports Authority of India will absorb the rest.

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