Stalemate between Air India management, striking pilots continues

April 30th, 2011 - 9:52 pm ICT by ANI  

New Delhi, Apr 30(ANI): Refusing to bow to the ultimatum given by the Air India management, the chief of the striking pilots’ union said on Saturday that none of the pilots had resumed work.

Over 660 pilots of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), who belonged to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and were employed by Air India after the merger of the two carriers in 2007, have been on an indefinite strike since April 27 demanding pay parity.

They were joined by 200 executive pilots a day later.

ICPA President Asham Singh Bhinder blamed the management, saying that they were ready for a lockdown of ICPA’s offices, but shied away from holding talks with the union for a solution.

“Yesterday, they had given us the ultimatum till 5 p.m., saying we will be terminated. None of us have joined back as we cannot work in such a hostile environment. Till now the management hasn’t taken any step to resolve this issue. They are continuously talking about lockdown, but they aren’t ready to talk with us,” Bhinder said.

Bhinder also claimed 85 pilots were sacked after the Friday deadline, while 10 others had been fired earlier.

The primary demands of the protesting pilots are pay parity and an inquiry against corruption and mismanagement in the Air India administration.

However, the Air India management has come down on the ICPA with a heavy hand, ruling out any negotiations on their pay parity demand.

The management had also warned the pilots that if they did not comply with the ultimatum, then the Essential Service Maintenance Act (ESMA) could be invoked against them.

Around 130 flights have been cancelled as the striking pilots refused to return to work, ignoring the stern warning, and the Delhi High Court’s decision to initiate contempt proceedings against them.

With end of the strike nowhere in sight, hiring pilots from private airlines would provide relief to Air India, already suffering a loss of 260 million rupees due to the ongoing strike.

However, Bhinder strongly criticized such a move, saying it will be a huge blunder by the national airlines, since a pilot requires a month-long training before he flies a new kind of aircraft.

“It will be one of the biggest flight safety hazard if they hire pilots from private airlines to fly our aircrafts because even if you are endorsed on the same aircraft, there are standard operating procedures, there are different engines. Even within my own airline, I cannot fly any aircraft; I have to be trained for that specific aircraft. So, I hope they don’t make such a big blunder and violate the safety norms,” he said.

Bhinder said they are open to negotiations and talks but are receiving no positive signal from the other end.

The pilot strike will enter its fifth day on Sunday. (ANI)

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