Air India Pilots Call Off Strike
The crisis in Air India ended on Wednesday with pilots calling off their five-day old agitation under Government threat to resume duty or face action after it promised to put in abeyance the decision to cut their incentives and allowances.
"The strike has been called off in view of the assurance given by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel that status quo will continue on issues," Capt V K Bhalla, epresentative of the protesting executive pilots, told reporters. .
"We are thankful and happy that the pilots have called off their agitation .... the Air India CMD (Arvind Jadhav) will be shortly forming a committee," Patel told reporters soon after the pilots' agitation was withdrawn.
In Mumbai, AI's executive director Jitendra Bhargava said normalcy would be restored by Wednesday night on international flights and by Thursday morning in domestic operations. The pilots started reporting for duty and flight bookings resumed in the afternoon.
With about 200 pilots reporting sick as a mark of protest over Air India's decision to cut their productivity- linked incentive (PLI) by 50 per cent and payment of flying allowance for three months, over 240 flights were cancelled. The national carrier is estimated to have incurred a loss of over Rs 100 crore during this period.
Government had issued an ultimatum to the pilots to resume duty from midnight last night or face action.
Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the airline would soon set up a Committee, including representatives of the Ministry and pilots, to work on a turnaround plan and discuss issues relating to their pay and incentives.
However, Patel also warned that the management would be "free to take stern action" if any section of the agitators did not resume work forthwith.
"We are thankful and happy that the pilots have called off their agitation .... the Air India CMD (Arvind Jadhav) will be shortly forming a committee," Patel told reporters soon after the strike was called off.
He said the Ministry stood by the AI management's order of September 27 which announced the formation of this Committee on the turnaround plan. "It will also include representatives of the Civil Aviation Ministry," he added.
Expressing hope that normalcy of operations would be resumed by this evening or early tomorrow, Patel said "the passengers of Air India and the finances of Air India should not suffer". All sections of employees should cooperate to see that the national carrier's "reputation is regained immediately and confidence restored."
He said the government was extending "fullest support" to Air India by deciding to infuse equity and converting high cost debt to low-cost. "But government support comes with riders and these are difficult times for airlines, not only in India, but all over the world."