Court restrains Air India pilots’ illegal strike (Lead)

May 9th, 2012 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Wednesday restrained the pilots of flag carrier Air India from going on an “illegal strike”.

Over 100 Air India pilots, owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), are agitating over the rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression.

Justice Reva Khetrapal, while hearing Air India’s plea to restrain pilots from continuing the strike, issued notice to the IPG and sought its reply by July 13, the next date of hearing.

The agitation by Air India’s ’sick’ pilots continued for the second day Wednesday forcing the management to cancel four international flights, an official said.

The court said that the guild, “its members, agents, office bearer are restrained from illegal strike. The pilots are also restrained from reporting sick, staging demonstrating, holding dharnas, or resorting to any other modes of strike in and outside the petitioner company, including its offices in Delhi and outside, and also around airport”.

“Irreparable injury will be caused to petitioner if such strike will be allowed to continue,” the court said.

The airline had Tuesday sacked 10 pilots who went on mass sick leave protesting the move to provide Boeing 787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines. It also derecognised the IPG.

“Despite the management’s attempt to hold meetings with IPG office bearer, the pilots are not showing any interest to resolve the issue,” said advocate Lalit Bhasin, appearing for Air India.

He said that IPG members were obstructing other members from flying the public carrier.

Saying that the agitation was linked to rivalry between pilot unions of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India, Bhasin said that while the Bombay High Court had upheld the contention that the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots could not be trained on the Dreamliner, the Supreme Court had vacated the stay.

Despite the Supreme Court order the IPG was putting pressure on the management not to send the erstwhile Indian Airlines’ pilots for training on the Dreamliner, said Bhasin.

Counsel for Air India expressed concern over the loss caused to the public carrier due to the strike and said that the cancellation of flights affected the passengers in India and abroad.

Seeking a restraining order to prevent pilots from going on strike, Bhasin contended that under the Industrial Disputes Act, the pilots were supposed to give 14 days’ notice before going on strike, but the IPG failed to give the notice.

“No person employed in a public utility shall go on strike without 14 days’ prior notice. This is an illegal strike as pilots have not given strike notice,” he said.

Justice Khetrapal accepted his submission and observed that the IPG’s actions were illegal under the Industrial Disputes Act.

Air India pilots claimed they were more experienced than the pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and should, therefore, be preferred for the training programme.

The pilots’ move has come at a critical juncture for the airline which is hoping to retrieve lost ground with the peak vacation season and has secured a whopping Rs.42,000 crore bailout package.

An airline official admitted that any strike in the given situation would worsen the prospects of a turnaround.

Air India booked 27 Boeing 787s in 2006 in a mega deal for 68 aircraft from Boeing. The first of the 27 Boeing 787 aircraft which were ordered in 2006 for the IPG cadre pilots, before the merger of Air India and the Indian Airlines in 2007, is expected to join the fleet at the end of the month.

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