The Air India management has taken a tough stance against the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), whose members have been on a strike for 14 days and has sacked 30 more pilots, taking the number of dismissed pilots to 101.
The move came on a day when civil aviation minister Ajit Singh met representatives of Air India employees’ unions and urged them to convince the IPG to call off the strike. IPG was not invited for the talks.
The IPG-led strike began a fortnight ago to protest against the management’s decision to depute pilots from erstwhile Indian Airlines on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The union has about 450 members. The airline management also claimed there were cracks in the union, as four pilots had resumed flying. However, the union dismissed the claim and said those resuming duty were not its members. Stalemate continued as negotiations are yet to begin between the two sides.
“The sacking of pilots will only strengthen the union instead of weakening it,’’ an IPG member said.
At the meeting with the unions, Singh said it would be difficult to clear all the pending wages by June 30 due to the ongoing strike.
The salaries and allowances have not been paid for February and March. The airline’s monthly wage bill is about Rs 300 crore, accounting total dues at Rs 600 crore. The airline is losing Rs 15-20 crore daily because of the strike. The minister, however, promised the unions that employees’ promotions that had been pending for the past two years would be cleared soon.
This was Singh’s first meeting with the unions after he assumed charge of the ministry three months ago. He said he was willing to talk to the pilots and would also hold a separate meeting with the unions on the issue of the implementation of the Dharmadhikari committee report .
Singh also briefed the unions about the airline’s revival plans and said its turnaround package was dependent on the airline achieving certain parameters such as better on-time performance and loads. He sought unions’ cooperation in achieving the airline’s revival. “It was just a familarisation process. I met the unions and asked them to cooperate with us to make Air India ‘Maharaja’, king of skies, once again,’’ Singh said.
Some of the union members pointed that the root cause of frequent labour agitations in the organisation was lack of integration, and blamed the human resource department for the crisis.
Arun Kumar Malhotra, general secretary, Air Corporation Employees Union, which represents ground staff and cabin crew, said the management must cross utilise employees and resources and put an end to mismanagement.
The airline is operating a truncated schedule and the stir has also hit cargo exports.