Air India pilots stick to stand, airline to go for hiring (Second Lead)

June 6th, 2012 - 7:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) Downplaying the threat by Air India that it will hire new pilots, a section of agitating aviators who have been on strike for the past 30 days said Wednesday they will not end their agitation until a bare minimum of their demands are met.

“We are in it for a long haul. This is our airline too. We have now placed only two demands… recognition of our unions and reinstatement of 101 sacked pilots… After that we are ready to join back and hold discussions with the government,” Rohit Kapahi, committee member of Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), told IANS.

According to other IPG members, the threat not to reinstate the sacked pilots would only further harm the airline as it has spent nearly Rs.400-450 crore on training these 400 pilots, who can in any case join private sector airlines.

“The national carrier has spent nearly Rs.one crore on training of each of us. This money will not be recovered until and unless the issue is resolved. The private sector will not require to spend this amount on our training and will anyways hire us,” an agitating pilot who did not want to be named told IANS.

“But we are not here for money or anything, we just want our rights to be given to us and a fair and free working environment in Air India,” he added.

The agitating aviators have also taken out protest marches in the national capital and Mumbai.

The development comes as Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh Wednesday said that Air India will go ahead and hire new pilots to tackle the prolonged strike by a section of the pilots.

“Air India has decided to recruit pilots from domestic and international markets. We expect to advertise for the posts soon,” Singh told reporters here.

The airline officials told IANS that they will put out advertisements for a walk-in-interview for pilots with specific skill set.

The hiring process of the new pilots would effectively mean that the 101 pilots who were sacked out of the 400 agitating aviators, would now have to either resign or apply afresh for resuming their post.

“We earlier asked them (pilots) to come back and said that no one will be victimised. We had even given a chance to sacked pilots that they can also come back and we will take them back on a case-by-case basis,” a senior Air India official told IANS.

“But after the process for hiring starts, either they have to come back or apply afresh. We will like to hire more co-pilots, as we already have a pool of well qualified executive pilots.”

According to the official, currently the airline has 90 trainee pilots, of whom 60 are already training and will be available for regular flying in four to five months. The remaining 30 pilots will undergo training immediately.

Airline industry experts feel that it will take nearly five to six months for Air India to fully resume operations to its 27 international destinations as wage negotiations and clearances from the regulator will take nearly three months.

The airline plans to hire nearly 90-100 pilots on contractual basis that ranges from one to three years,depending upon wage agreements.

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