Air India pilots officially call off strike (Lead)

July 4th, 2012 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) The 59-day strike by Air India pilots ended Wednesday, a day after the aviators assured the Delhi High Court that they would call off their stir and join active duty within 48 hours.

“We have officially started the process of joining back. However, we have to first provide affidavits to the high court stating that we are ready and willing to join back our duties. The affidavits are expected to be submitted by tomorrow,” Rohit Kapahi, committee member of the striking aviators’ union Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG), told IANS.

The pilots also ended their indefinite hunger strike which started here June 24. Five of the 11 fasting pilots were hospitalised.

The pilots’ decision to end the strike came after the Air India management Tuesday assured the court that it would “sympathetically” consider their grievances.

The court also told the pilots and Air India management to appear before conciliating officer and Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) N.K. Prasad July 6 at 4.30 p.m. The court posted the matter for July 9 when the conciliating officer will submit a report.

“We also expect that the (CLC) will be able to resolve all our issues. We look forward to negotiations with the management, on all pending issues, in the presence of the CLC,” Kapahi said.

After putting forth an original list of 14 demands, the aviators are now asking for the reinstatement of their 101 sacked colleagues and recognition of their union IPG.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh Tuesday responded positively to the development in court.

“The high court direction on the strike has endorsed the views of the government that the pilots should call off the strike unconditionally and report back to duty. The government is committed to the welfare of the employees of Air India, including pilots,” said the minister.

According to an Air India official, before joining regular duties, the aviators would first have to get their fitness checked by a team of doctors and undergo refresher training and a mandatory route flying check.

“There are four levels that the pilots need to cross, including fitness test, ground training refresher, simulator trials and finally a route check exam. Even if pilots join back today, these procedures will take nearly 15-20 days to complete,” an Air India official told IANS.

In the route flying check, the pilots who have not flown an aircraft over a period of 30 days will operate a flight with a check (instructor) pilot, who will oversee their performance. After the process, the pilots resuming duty will be assigned a flying schedule.

The strike had started May 8 when pilots of the IPG went on a mass sick leave, protesting the move to provide Boeing 787 Dreamliner training to their colleagues and pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.

The grounded fleet of Boeing 777s, unused manpower and absence from key routes hit the airlines’ chances of a financial turnaround.

The strike also crippled Air India’s international operations and caused an estimate revenue loss of Rs.620 crore.

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