Committee set up to look into striking pilots’ grievances, says Kharge

April 28th, 2011 - 8:43 pm ICT by ANI  

New Delhi, Apr 28 (ANI): Union Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday said the government has set up a committee to committee to look into the strike by pilots of national carrier Air India.

“Vayalar Ravi is tackling this matter. He has already constituted a committee. That committee is also looking after the grievances of the pilots and what action the committee takes on what suggestions, that committee will give,” said Kharge.

“Based on which, Vayalar Ravi is also going to take a decision. So now Vayalar Ravi is doing conciliation and is talking to concerned people. Let us see what the outcome is going to be,” he added.

With the Air India pilots’ strike entering its second day on Thursday, over fifty flights were cancelled while several others were delayed.

In Delhi, 33 domestic flights were cancelled, as the airline management decided to operate only those flights for which cabin crew as well as adequate pilots was available.

Similarly, unavailability of cockpit crew forced Air India to cancel around 19 flights, including two international ones, out of Mumbai.

Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) President Asheem Singh Bhinder, however, today said the strike against exploitation by the Air India management would continue.

Bhinder said the striking pilots wanted to know why contract and expatriate pilots were being hired, even as the serving commanders were under-utilised by Air India.

“We want an inquiry, why were these profitable routes withdrawn? We have 30 profitable routes. Why are we, erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots, being underused? Through Right to Information Act, we have information that our initial flying duration of 90 hours has been reduced to 49 hours,” said Bhinder.

“Why, on one hand, we are not being used while on the other hand, contract and expat pilots are being hired through an agency with foreign passports, not an Indian citizen, at a much higher salary? There are so many unemployed pilots here in India. Why is there so much irregularity?” he asked.

The striking pilots said hundreds more had joined their agitation on Thursday.

“Additional management pilots have joined the strike. Our main demand is that all Air India pilots should be given one single salary by one single agreement of Air India. Our three years of arrears should be given to us. Corruption should be removed from Air India and all the deals of buying lands, air crafts, all that should face a CBI inquiry,” said Captain V. K. Bhalla, a former executive pilot of Air India, whose services were terminated after he expressed solidarity with the striking pilots.

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the agitating pilots to call off their strike in “larger public interest,” but they seem to be no mood to return to the cockpit.

They are likely to approach the Supreme Court against the High Court order.

The High Court order came soon after the Air India management sacked six leaders of the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA).

Among those whose services have been terminated are ICPA President Captain Asheem Bhinder and General Secretary Captain Rishabh Kapoor.

Declaring the strike as illegal, the management derecognised the ICPA and sealed its offices in Delhi and Mumbai.

The ICPA has about 700 members who use to work for Indian Airlines till it was merged with Air India in 2007.

The ICPA claims that while Air India pilots enjoy a huge fixed salary component, the same is almost minuscule for former IA pilots in 2007.

The association claims that while their entire pay package depends on the hours they fly every day, the airline has been curtailing the number of flights by 30 to 40 percent. (ANI)

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