Pilots refuse to turn up for work, nine more sacked
Over 20 AI flights cancelled as pilots disobey Delhi HC orders, demand withdrawal of sacking orders
Striking Air India (AI) pilots refused to turn up for work for the third consecutive day on Thursday 10 May forcing the airline to stop bookings for the US, Canada and Europe-bound flights till 15 May. The airline management on its part sacked nine more pilots, which led to cancellations of over 20 flights and left hundreds of passengers fuming.
AI said it has been forced to suspend its international bookings to New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Toronto, London, Paris and Frankfurt. Some other foreign destinations are also likely to be affected. From Delhi flights to Frankfurt, Shanghai, Toronto, New Jersey, Chicago and Seoul were cancelled while Air India flights to New York, Riyadh and Shanghai were not operating from Mumbai.
Over 200 pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) have refused to join duty over the past three days over the rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression. The number of pilots who have been sacked in the past three days has now gone up to 45, with 10 pilots, mostly office bearers of the IPG, sacked on Tuesday 8 May and 26 more on Wednesday 9 May. AI management has also derecognised the IPG. The AI operates about 50 international flights and 400 domestic flights daily.
The Delhi High Court had on Wednesday termed the strike by the pilots illegal and restrained them from reporting sick and staging demonstrations or holding dharnas in any part of the country. But the IPG asserted on Thursday that the AI management must withdraw the sack orders and till then there was no question of resuming work. They have now sought the intervention of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resolve the impasse. “It is a matter of life and death and career for the pilots. Talks were held by IPG with AI management, which did not honour its commitments. The management is having a non-serious attitude towards our grievances,” IPG president Jitendra Awhad said.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh expressed helplessness at the pilots’ refusal to rejoin work. “If they (pilots) are not willing to follow the court order, why would they listen to me? They have to decide to follow the High Court order. That’s the law but they are not willing to do so. What can we do,” he asked.
Delhi HC asks pilots to resume work; 10 more sacked
Court terms strike ‘illegal’, restrains pilots from reporting sick, holding demonstrations or dharnas
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday termed the strike by over 200 Air India (AI) pilots illegal and restrained them from reporting sick and staging demonstrations or holding dharnas in any part of the country, shortly after which the management of the airline sacked 10 more pilots who have failed to report for work.
As the agitation by pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) entered the second day, harried passengers complained of flight delays by several hours. Four international flights, two each from Delhi and Mumbai, were cancelled, an AI spokesperson told the media. All other international flights have been operating as a contingency plan has been put in place with the available pilots.
The pilots, under the banner of IPG, are agitating over the rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression.
Justice Reva Khetrapal of the Delhi HC issued notice to IPG and asked it to reply to a plea of AI management seeking court’s intervention and also a restraint order against the striking pilots. The judge also said that allowing such a strike to continue will cause irreparable loss to the company as well as huge inconvenience to the passengers travelling by the national carrier.
Filing an injunction suit against the pilots, AI’s lawyer Lalit Bhasin termed the strike illegal and said due to the pilots’ strike, the company had been compelled to cancel some international flights, which resulted in extreme hardship and inconvenience to the passengers; he termed the strike by the pilots a pressurising tactic to prevent the AI management from implementing policy decisions. Moreover, as a result of the cancellation of flights, AI is facing huge financial loss of over Rs 10 crore per day, he said. Under the Industrial Disputes Act, the pilots were supposed to give 14 days’ notice to the management before going on strike, but in the instant case, IPG failed to comply with the provisions of the Act, Bhasin added.
Even as the total number of sacked pilots went up to 20, the government said that it is ready to talk to the protesting pilots but only after they resume duty. “If you have grievances, we can talk, but discussions and disruptions cannot take place simultaneously. They should withdraw their strike and apologise to the passengers,” Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters in Delhi.
The court has fixed 13 July as the next date of hearing.
No solution in sight yet over management-pilots row
100 more call in sick after talks fail; Air India sacks 10 pilots and derecognises union which initiated the move
The Air India (AI) management on Tuesday 8 May, derecognised the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) and terminated the services of 10 pilots who are said to have initiated the strike on Monday 7 May.
The AI management had warned the pilots to return to work by 6 pm on Tuesday or “face action” but the warning had no effect on the pilots as almost 100 more refused to turn up for work. The initial group of pilots had gone on sick leave on Monday night, which led to cancellation of many flights. Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh also called the pilots’ strike, by choosing to call in sick, ‘inappropriate’ and ‘illegal’. He urged them to have patience and discuss their grievances with the management to find out a solution since “it is not right for the passengers to suffer because of the strike”.
However, the pilots, who had earlier urged the Minister to step in to resolve the dispute, did not heed to his advice. The decision by the pilots to call in sick came right after their talks with the airline management broke down on Tuesday. Sources in the IPG said that some sort of understanding had been reached during their meeting with the airline’s management over the past 3-4 days “but the CMD totally backtracked” during Tuesday’s meeting. The number of pilots calling in sick is expected to go up significantly on Wednesday 9 May, sources said.
According to IPG president Jitendra Awhad, the management was not taking this situation seriously and that at least some of their demands should be met. “No time is good for agitation, but at times things come to such a passé when agitation is the last resort to get the pending issues resolved,” a pilot said.
The IPG pilots, who belonged to the AI even before the merger of the Indian Airlines (IA) and AI took place, are protesting the management’s decision to train their colleagues from the IA on flying the long-haul Dreamliner plane, the first of which is expected to arrive by late May.
The former Indian Airlines pilots, represented by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), had moved the courts earlier protesting that the airline was only sending the AI cockpit crew for training on the B-787s.
The Supreme Court had ruled that that the management would deploy an equal number of pilots from both IA and AI. The IPG, however, says it wants a solution to the numerous problems which will arise out of the issue including IPG pilots’ career progression prospects.