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Air India pilots may call off strike

Last updated on: May 4, 2011 20:50 IST

Air India pilots may call off strike

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Air India's domestic operations remained crippled on Wednesday, with the pilots continuing their strike for the eighth day, as informal efforts were mounted to initiate talks with the agitators.

The pilots, however, said they were yet to get any formal intimation about the talks, though Air India management claimed they were ready to hold discussions soon to resolve the crisis. <

It is learnt that some "feelers" have been sent to the pilots since last night and the agitators have responded positively.

Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi had a meeting with Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav, Civil Aviation Secretary Nasim Zaidi and top officials to review the situation arising out of the strike.

"We are certain that the situation can be resolved by dialogue. We are only waiting for government to come forward to talk to us as we can come to a consensus. ICPA has written to the Prime Minister again to intervene in this matter and we are hopeful that he will call us soon," an Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) leader told PTI.

The pilots, who struck work from midnight last Tuesday, demanded pay parity with their colleagues of erstwhile Air India, better working conditions and CBI inquiry into alleged withdrawal of flights from profitable routes, aircraft purchase and other issues.

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Image: Pilots protest in Mumbai.
Photographs: Reuters.
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The ailing airline has been operating just ten per cent of its overall flights including 10 each from Mumbai and Delhi.

Of the total 1,200 pilots, over 800 belonging to the erstwhile Indian Airlines are on strike. The remaining 400, mostly operating international flights, owe allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild.

Air India management on Tuesday had announced that no work, no pay principle will be implemented to counter the pilots' strike, as the Delhi high court rapped both sides for their adamant attitude and failure to resolve the crisis.

On Sunday, Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav sent an SMS to all airline employees asking them to persuade the pilots to return to work and the negotiating table, saying the issues they were raising "occurred many years ago, for which the current administration cannot be held responsible."

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Image: Air India pilots organise a candle light march in Mumbai.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Air India pilots may call off strike

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"Risking our airline's survival at this time is criminal," Jadhav said in his SMS. "We all condemn corruption in public life, and culprits must be punished", AI CMD said, adding "all actions spoken of (by the pilots) are unforgivable".

In Mumbai, pilots took out a candle-light march at Gateway of India demanding immediate ouster of Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav, alleging that the management's unwillingness to invite them for talks was a part of his hidden agenda to shut down the airline and privatise it.

Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said the demands of the striking Air India employees cannot be accepted. Vayalar Ravi said 1,600 Air India pilots drew a total salary of about Rs 800 crore (Rs 8 billion) in a year.

The combined salaries of 28,000 other employees also amounted to Rs 800 crore, the minister said.

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Image: AI incurs huge loss.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Air India pilots may call off strike

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The minister supported the airline management stating that the Air India pilots are among the highest paid in India.

About 40 flights were in operation on Wednesday as the airline cancelled almost 90 per cent of its 320 daily services.

Air India is suffering a loss of Rs 26 crore (Rs 260 million) per day on account of the stir. So far, seven pilots have been sacked and six suspended.

The Delhi high court on Tuesday slapped contempt notices on nine office bearers of de-recognised Indian Commercial Pilots Association for disobeying its order to call off the strike, while deciding to take up the matter on May 25.

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Image: 800 pilots on strike.

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