Sacking of pilots right, can’t hold Air India to ransom: Minister

April 27th, 2011 - 10:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) Union Civil Aviation Minister Vyalar Ravi Wednesday took a strong stand against a section of striking Air India pilots, saying that they can not hold the national carrier to ransom.

“They have taken the right decision in sacking these pilots. I told them (management) to deal with the situation and to take strong action,” Ravi told reporters here.

He was referring to the sacking of six members of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), who along with others, went on a flash strike from Tuesday midnight.

The pilots of the ICPA, once on the payroll of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, are on strike demanding parity in pay with their counterparts in Air India and other issues related to work conditions.

To keep the operations running, the Air India management decided to rope in 150 management pilots, or executive pilots, to operate the flights.

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court stayed the flash strike by 600 pilots of Air India but not before slamming the management for not addressing their demands for some two decades. The court’s decision came even as nearly 50 flights, mainly out of the national capital and Mumbai, had to be cancelled or rescheduled due to the strike since Tuesday midnight, causing inconvenience to thousands of air travellers in the country.

Ravi said that the national carrier cannot be blackmailed.

“Nobody can dictate terms to the government,” the minister said.

According to him, only a section of ICPA pilots was not co-operating with the management, while the rest of 35,000 employees of the oranisation were.

“Only these pilots have problems. The rest of workers and other staff are co-operating, they understand the difficulty in which Air India is, but only these pilots who earn above Rs.3 lakh have problems,” Ravi said.

He also pointed out that Air India has been incurring losses and the airline needs to be financially revamped.

While the minister also showed optimism about the level of cooperation that the expert committee formed to resolve the parity issue was getting.

“When we have constituted a committee to look into the-pay parity issue and most of the 35,000 employees are co-operating and giving their demands in writing, how can these pilots hold the company to ransom?” Ravi asked.

Earlier, Ravi had constituted an expert committee under a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice C.S. Dharamadhikari, to examine employee issues such as pay parity between the staff of the two airlines. This panel started work Monday.

“The committee will take five months time to resolve all the issues. The committee will also submit a report to the government in the given time,” Ravi said.

Ravi added that the strike won’t last long and that ICPA only has a handful of pilots on strike, while they claim to have a huge support base.

“This strike will not last for long,” he said.

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