The Air India management’s stern line against its agitating pilots continued on Friday, the fourth day of the stir, and seemed to be showing results, with the union asking for talks.
The management said it was approaching the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to cancel the flying licences of 10 functionaries of the striking union, the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), even as it prepared a contingency plan to operate a truncated international schedule from Monday. It also dismissed another 25 pilots for not reporting to duty, taking the count to 71, and cancelled 23 flights.
“We are writing a letter to the DGCA requesting him to cancel the flying licence of the office bearers of the IPG,” said a spokesperson for AI. The DGCA, E K Bharat Bhusan, told Business Standard he’d take whatever action was required after receiving a letter from the airline.
The move came even as the Supreme Court refused to intervene and asked the airline to negotiate with the pilots and “sort out” their differences, reported PTI.
The airline is also moving the Delhi high court, seeking contempt action against the agitating pilots for not heeding the former’s direction. The HC had declared the strike illegal.
The IPG, for the first time, made an offer for unconditional talks. “Suspending our licences will only worsen the matter. We humbly request the civil aviation minister to meet us and listen to our grievances and are also ready for unconditional talks with the management,” said Tauseef Mukaddam, IPG spokesperson.
The agitation of the 550-member IPG is after the airline allowed erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots to operate the new Dreamliner planes. The IPG (it represents pilots of AI before the merger with IA) objected; it also wants its members’ career progression and time-bound promotions to be the same as those of pilots from the erstwhile IA. The erstwhile IA pilots got a commander’s grade in six years, but it took 10 years in the erstwhile AI.
AI says it wants the union to end the agitation before any talks. “The court has declared their agitation illegal and the pilots should come back to work. It is their airline and they should not leave it like this. There is no question of talks, as the pilots unions is derecognised by us,” said Deepak Brara, director (commercial).
Meanwhile, the airline plans to wet-lease four aircraft (which come with pilots and crew) and cut the number of flights to Europe and the US from 32 to 14 a day. “From Monday morning, we will operate flights according to the new contingency plan. We have sent a request to the airports in Europe and the US, where we operate, to allot us new slots and their replies are expected by Saturday afternoon,” said Brara. He said the domestic operations were hassle-free.
The wet-leased craft would be used to operate five more flights. “A final plan will be ready by tomorrow, when we get the clearance for slots from the airports and from the leasing companies,” he added.
Due to the agitation, AI has lost Rs 48 crore in revenue and has had to spend Rs 20 crore more in providing accommodation and other facilities to stranded passengers.
Meanwhile, two AI employees were arrested on Friday for allegedly posting unparliamentary and derogatory remarks on popular social networking sites against Prime Minister office, National flag, Supreme Court and leaders of opposite employees association.