The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), spearheading the 16-day-old strike, today expressed willingness to talk "right now" with Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh if the 101 sacked Air India pilots were taken back.
IPG Joint Secretary Tauseef Mukadam said, "We are absolutely ready to talk to the Honourable Minister...We are willing to go right now."
Asked what will be the "way out", he said, "We don't want our core demands to be met right now. Take back the pilots and give us an assurance that these demands will be discussed...We are not putting a gun on anyone's head or ever intend to do so. We are willing to join duty right now. It can be done in 15 minutes."
Mukadam and three of his IPG colleagues said they were also willing to write "another letter" to the Minister seeking time from him to discuss the issues, adding that they had sought time from him earlier too when they began the strike.
He said the strike last year by the national carrier's second pilots' union -- Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) -- ended after all the sacked pilots were taken back and de-recognition of their union revoked.
"We are not asking for anything more than what happened last year," Mukadam said, charging the airline management with "misleading" the Ministry and the Minister on the issues involved in their protest.
The press conference came on a day when Air India management filed a contempt petition against them in the Delhi High Court, saying the pilots had failed to comply with its order restraining them from undertaking the "illegal" stir.
Terming their protest illegal, the government also blamed the agitators for not coming to the negotiating table, with Singh saying, "We have again and again said we are willing to talk. But they don't want to."
"They are not willing to talk unconditionally. They have conditions. It is an illegal strike and there are no issues in this strike," Singh said, adding that the Air India management was taking "whatever action they need to take".