Indian PM Meets Striking Airport Workers

India's prime minister on Friday assured striking airport employees that their jobs would remain secure despite government plans to privatize the country's two largest airports, officials said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the appeal at a meeting with representatives of some 22,000 airport workers who have been on a strike since Wednesday, a day after private companies won tenders to operate the airports in New Delhi and Bombay.

The nationwide strike hasn't affected most flights, but it forced airports to run on emergency electricity generators, without water or garbage collection.

"In the interest of the traveling public, the prime minister asked them to call off the strike," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told reporters after Singh met with the striking workers.

Patel said Singh assured the workers that their jobs would remain secure, as the private operators were bound by the contracts to absorb at least 60 percent of the workers of Airport Authority of India currently employed at the two airports.

"We will request them to take more people," Patel said. The rest will remain on the payrolls of AAI, which will continue to operate other airports in the country.

There was no immediate reaction from the airport workers, who went into a meeting to discuss a response to the prime minister's appeal.

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