Passengers left stranded as 800 Air India pilots go on strike

Our Bureaus Mumbai/New Delhi | Updated on May 17, 2011 Published on April 27, 2011

Passengers queue up outside Air India counters at the Indira Gandhi International airport as members of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association went on strike in the Capital on Wednesday. — Ramesh Sharma   -  Business Line

Air passengers were left stranded all over the country, caught in the the battle between Air India and its pilots on Wednesday. Close to 800 pilots went on strike from midnight resulting in the cancellation of about 24 out of 320 daily flights and delays ranging up to three hours in departure of other flights.

The airline management reacted swiftly to the strike call by derecognising the Indian Pilots Association (ICPA) within hours of the strike call. The ICPA had given the notice for the strike. The airline also sacked six ICPA leaders, including its President, Captain A.S. Bhinder, and General Secretary, Captain Rishabh Kapur. The union offices in Delhi and Mumbai were sealed.

“The ICPA has proceeded on strike despite pendency of proceedings in conciliation and its assurance to the Delhi High Court,” the airline said in a statement.

End stir, says Court

The Delhi High Court also barred the pilots from resorting to any kind of demonstration and asked them to resume work in “larger public interest”. This was after the airline management called for an urgent hearing of plea against the strike.

The pilots faced yet another blow with the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Vayalar Ravi, supporting Air India's action. “They (the ICPA) cannot dictate terms to us,” the Minister said, even as he appealed to the striking pilots to cooperate and help the airline come out of its crisis.

Suddenly short of pilots, Air India called in nearly 150 executive pilots. Executive pilots are seniors who also carry out some administrative work.

The striking pilots, most of whom were from the erstwhile Indian Airlines, are demanding pay parity with their counterparts in Air India. They allege that their fixed salary component was much lower than that of Air India pilots'. The average earning of a co-pilot of erstwhile Indian Airlines is between Rs 2.25 lakh and Rs 3.25 lakh a month and for a Commander it is Rs 4-5 lakh. According to sources, Air India pilots earn between Rs 3.88 lakh and Rs 4.88 lakh a month.

Late last night, the ICPA gave the letter to the management intimating its decision to go ahead with the strike, after the tripartite conciliation talks before the Chief Labour Commissioner failed.

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Published on April 27, 2011
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