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Air India pilots wanted a halt to command training of IA pilots

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-led strike continued for the 19th day on Saturday as an informal meeting with the Civil Aviation Minister yesterday failed to break the deadlock.

The IPG on Saturday released a statement saying it had written to Singh before launching the agitation and had held a meeting with Joint Secretary (civil aviation) , the day before going on strike.

In its letter to Singh, which was released on Saturday, IPG had demanded the airline first formulate a comprehensive career progression policy for pilots and stop command training of first officers of erstwhile Indian Airlines till its demand was met. IPG pointed that while its members were not selected for command training, the airline had selected 40 first officers from Indian Airlines who were junior to Air India pilots. "The pilots of erstwhile Air India have seen their careers effectively hit a brick wall,'' IPG general secretary wrote to Singh.

An IPG member said there were 150 first officers from Air India who were waiting to be selected for command training.

On Friday, Singh met five non-committee members of the IPG but the talks failed to resolve the issue. On Saturday, he met some others for the first time. “We reiterated the stand of the government that it was an illegal strike. It had caused untold miseries to passengers. Air India had lost much and therefore, they should come back to work immediately,” Singh said after the meeting.

He added, the pilots began their agitation without serving a notice and reported sick when they were not. The minister is understood to have told the pilots that the ailing airline had suffered a great deal not only in terms of financial losses but also on its image and the people's confidence in it.

Sources said Singh indicated that the process to revoke sack orders of pilots would begin as and when they resume duty. A total of 101 pilots owing allegiance to IPG had so far been sacked by the airline.

The carrier had announced the contingency plan would remain effective till June 30.

Under the interim schedule, it would operate 38 international flights per day instead of 45, to be followed till June 30.

Domestic operations were being carried out normally and there has been no disruption on this front due to the present agitation, officials said.

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