In a crackdown,Air India today sacked ten agitating pilots,derecognised their union and sealed its offices as nearly 160 of them failed to join duty.
Five international flights have been cancelled since midnight.
With Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh terming their agitation “illegal”,airline sources said more severe action was to follow if the pilots did not get back to work by 6 pm hours today.
Flights on the Delhi-Toronto,Delhi-Chicago,Mumbai-Newark and Mumbai-Hong Kong sectors were cancelled “due to unavailability of pilots,” an Air India spokesperson said.
With about 160 pilots not joining duty,the services of at least ten pilots,including office bearers of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG),which is leading the agitation,were terminated,sources said.
While the IPG has been derecognised,sources said its offices in Mumbai and Delhi were sealed.
A section of Air India pilots,owing allegiance the IPG,are agitating over the rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their progression.
The Civil Aviation Minister termed the strike “illegal” and said the management of the national carrier would take appropriate action against those involved in the stir.
“They are reporting sick. They have not given any notice for any strike. So,whatever the Air India management rules and regulations,action will be taken accordingly,” Singh told reporters.
“The pilots have been told to return to work by today evening. And if they don’t,the management will take stern action against them,” the Air India spokesperson said.
The airline management has also started sending doctors to the houses of pilots who were reporting sick,the sources said.
Meanwhile,the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-backed pilots’ body has said it was open to negotiations with the management.
“We are open to negotiations at any given time,” Indian Pilots Guild president and NCP leader Jitendra Awhad told PTI.
The Civil Aviation Minister said the pilots went on sick leave in the middle of their talks with the management of Air India which has led to cancellation of flights.
Noting that Air India is currently going through a turbulent period and crores of rupees of public money were being infused to run the carrier,Singh said this was not the right time for such protests.
Agreeing that every section of employees had grievances and there were ways to find a solution,the minister said the “strike is illegal”.