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Air India Serves Ultimatum To Striking Pilots

New Delhi, Apr 29: With the Air India pilots' stir entering its third day affecting thousands of travellers, the airline today issued an "ultimatum" to its pilots asking them to resume work by this evening
air india serves ultimatum to striking pilots -...
PTI 29 Apr 2011, 21:32:08 PM IST

New Delhi, Apr 29: With the Air India pilots' stir entering its third day affecting thousands of travellers, the airline today issued an "ultimatum" to its pilots asking them to resume work by this evening even as the Delhi High Court refused to stay a management order derecognising their union.

While Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) leaders said an "ultimatum" was issued by the HR department, company officials said, "We are following the court directions (given yesterday). Through an internal memo, we have asked all pilots whether they can be rostered for duty from 5 PM today."

The development came after a substantial number of around 300 executive pilots joined the 800-odd members of the ICPA, which is spearheading the strike.

In another development, the Delhi High Court refused to stay the Air India management order derecognising the ICPA.

Refusing to accede to ICPA's plea to revoke its derecognition, Justice S Murlidhar issued notice to Air India Ltd and sought its response on the plea by the pilots' body by July 16, the next date of hearing.

Justice Geeta Mittal of the high court had on Wednesday asked the pilots to call off their agitation and resume work in "larger public interest." The court had warned that property of ICPA will be attached if they did not return to work immediately.

A S Bhinder, President of the ICPA which is demanding pay parity among other issues, told reporters that the agitators would resume duty only after the management "makes concrete and time-bound commitments on our demands."

These including a higher fixed component in their salary, a CBI probe into alleged mismanagement and removal of CMD Arvind Jadhav holding him solely responsible for the "financial mess".

"We want the management to resolve the issues within a specific time-frame. Besides, all those the sacked or suspended should be taken back, our offices de-sealed and derecognition of ICPA revoked," he said. The management has terminated the services of seven pilots and suspended six others.

Executive pilots also joined the agitation yesterday and started reporting sick, leading the management to send doctors to their homes. Over 100 senior pilots have so far reported sick, according to ICPA sources.

The cash-strapped carrier is losing Rs four crore per day due to the strike. However, the sources said, this figure might be more as the airline has liabilities towards payment of instalments of new and leased aircraft and the salary of its employees.

With both pilots and management refusing to budge from their stated positions, passengers continued to bear the brunt of the agitation. Most of the flyers have cancelled their tickets on Air India while others were being accommodated in other airlines.

"Under the contingency plan, we are operating 50 flights across the network today," an Air India official said.

From Delhi, the airline is operating just 10 flights and almost an equal number from Mumbai to other metro cities. Yesterday, the management initiated contempt of court proceedings against the pilots in the Delhi High Court but the pilots remained unfazed.

Also, the conciliation talks between the management and the agitating pilots also ended in failure as both were not ready to budge from their position.

Thousands of passengers remained stranded at various airports with Air India operating only 50 of its regular 320 flights today.

Besides combining several flights, the airline is operating Boeing 747 jumbo service on Mumbai-Dubai-Delhi-Mumbai sector.

With both pilots and management refusing to budge from their stated positions, thousands of passengers continued to bear the brunt of the agitation. Most of the flyers have cancelled their tickets on Air India while some others were being accommodated on other airlines.

According to estimates, the cash-strapped national carrier is losing Rs four crore per day due to the strike. However, sources said, this figure might be more as the airline has liabilities towards payment of instalments of new and leased aircraft and the salary of its employees.

Yesterday, the management initiated contempt of court proceedings against the pilots in the Delhi High Court but the pilots remained unfazed. The court has warned that property of their trade union ICPA will be attached if they did not return to work immediately.

The Delhi High Court today refused to stay the Air India management order derecognising the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which is spearheading the ongoing pilots' stir for pay parity.

The court, however, said that derecognition will not come in the way of any dialogue between the management and the striking pilot's body.

Refusing to accede to ICPA's plea to revoke its derecognition, Justice S Murlidhar issued notice to Air India Ltd and sought its response on the plea by the pilots' body by July 16, the next date of hearing.

The 800-odd pilots, who belong to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and owe allegiance to the ICPA, went on strike from midnight of April 26, alleging that there are differences in salaries and working conditions of pilots of Indian Airlines and Air India which were merged in 2007.

ICPA was derecognised by the Air India's management after pilots began their stir.

"The derecognition will not come in the way of any dialogue between the management and the striking pilot's body," Justice Murlidhar said.

Justice Geeta Mittal of the high court had on Wednesday asked the pilots to call off their agitation and resume work in "larger public interest."

Justice Mittal had also pulled up the management for the delay in considering the issue of pay parity but had asked the striking pilot to withdraw their strike forthwith.

But Justice Mittal on Thursday issued notices to the ICPA office bearers seeking their replies as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be launched against them for defying court's order to resume work.

The judge had warned that property of their trade union ICPA will be attached if they did not return to work immediately.

She had issued notices on a plea by the Air India management, seeking launch of contempt of court proceedings against the agitating pilots.

The ICPA has claimed that while Air India pilots enjoy a big fixed salary component, the same is almost minuscule for the former IA pilots.

The pilots have contended that while their entire pay package depends on the hours they fly every day, the airlines has been curtailing the number of flights by 30 to 40 per cent. PTI

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