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No pilot is indispensable, says Ajit; sacks 25 more

NEW DELHI: There’s no relief in sight for passengers of Air India’s cancelled international flights as the pilots’ strike entered the fourth day on Friday. The management sacked 25 more members of the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) on Friday, taking this toll to 71. It also asked the DGCA to cancel licence of 11 erstwhile AI pilots who have disrupted flights (including those of AI Express as they are flown by mostly AI pilots) thrice in the recent past.

Despite the tough stand, IPG remained adamant on not resuming work before the airline begins a dialogue on their demands.Aviation minister Ajit Singh briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the crisis. He is learnt to have the support of the highest executive levels for bringing in some discipline in AI – that is hoping to survive by getting Rs 30,000 crore of taxpayers’ money over next eight years.

“We may face some problems in the short run. But the long term plan is ready and will be implemented. The international operations are being restructured for now (read pruned). Pilots must understand their career progression can happen only if AI survives. No one is indispensable and the objective is to save AI,” Singh said, clearly indicating that pilots would first need to resume work before talks with them begin.

On a plea filed by the airline, the Supreme Court on Friday said that if AI feels that pilots have violated Delhi high court’s order (which on Wednesday had termed the strike illegal and restrained them from reporting sick) they may move the HC for appropriate directions. Despite the HC order, IPG sources claim that almost 400 pilots have reported sick.

As a result AI on Friday cancelled flights from Delhi to London, Chicago, New York, Toronto, Frankfurt, Paris, Hong Kong, Osaka and from Mumbai to Jeddah, London and Newark. The airline said the strike has led to a daily loss of Rs 15 crore and leaves 15,000 passengers stranded everyday.

AI is working out a contingency plan under which a truncated schedule would be operated. It is planning to have flights to North America via Europe by using the five Boeing 747 in its fleet. “We are looking at hiring expat pilots and taking aircraft on wet lease (in which plane comes with an operating crew). The retired pilots (below 65 years of age) are being asked to return to AI,” said an official. Derecognised IPG’s general secretary Tausif Muqaddam said: “How can we return to work when so many of us have been sacked and we are not allowed near the airports? These would need to be reversed and the airline must begin a dialogue on our career progression.”

Aviation sources said point out three things which show the pilots’ resolve, of not giving in; in all past strikes the government has ultimately meekly given in to the striking pilots’ blackmail.

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Posted by on May 12 2012. Filed under Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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