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AI pilots tell high court they will call off strike

58-DAY STIR: Management promises to take sympathetic view,including on sacked pilots.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: July 3, 2012 9:30:23 pm

On an assurance that the management shall “sympathetically” consider their grievances,striking pilots of Air India today gave an undertaking to the Delhi High Court to “immediately” call off their 58-day-long agitation.

Recording their statement before Justice Reva Khetrapal,they agreed to submit with the management their “joining/willingness to join reports” in the next 48 hours. “Willingness to join” reports will pertain to those 101 pilots whose services were terminated in the wake of the strike.

“Serious efforts have been made by this court to resolve the dispute between the parties and set into motion a negotiation process. Counsel for the parties have assured the court that they will be extending their full cooperation in this regard. Senior counsel Geeta Luthra,appearing for the pilots,states her clients will immediately call off the strike and give joining/willingness to join reports in the next 48 hours,” stated the court order.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh signalled a climbdown in the government’s stance following the order,and hoped that the strike “will come to an end immediately”. The minister also indicated that the government was willing “to consider the grievances of the pilots,including reinstatement of the terminated pilots”.

The Air India pilots,though,maintained that they will consult their lawyers “about the exact applicability of the order” before taking a decision on calling off the strike. “The court has said that all pilots should be taken back and no distinction should be made between those sacked and others. We are happy with the court’s observations,” Tauseef Mukadam,joint secretary of the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG),told The Indian Express.

The court,which earlier agreed with management counsel Lalit Bhasin that the pilots must first call off their strike,also urged the management to “show compassion” and give a “second chance” to the pilots since they have admitted their mistake.

“Senior advocate Bhasin very fairly states that the management,on pilots calling off their strike,shall sympathetically consider the grievances of the pilots,including the aspect of reinstatement of those pilots stated to be terminated consequent to the strike,” read the order,while simultaneously disposing of the pilots’ plea for a direction to the management to take back the sacked pilots.

In view of the strong objection by Bhasin over appointment of an amicus curiae or a mediator to the dispute,Justice Khetrapal deemed it right to send the matter back to the conciliation officer.

“If they are willing to join,this court is of the view matter can be resolved through conciliation… My concern is to get the issue resolved at the earliest since everyone is suffering. Let the strike be called off and the court shall try its best to ensure equity and welfare of all the pilots. No pilot should be made a scapegoat. After all,these pilots are not ‘gundas’ or criminal elements,” observed the judge.

The court then directed the parties,including the terminated pilots,to appear before the conciliator,Chief Labour Commissioner N K Prasad,on Friday at 4.30 pm. It has sought a report from Prasad by July 9,when the matter would again be taken up.

The pilots under the aegis of the IPG had moved the court yesterday,contending they were ready to end their strike if their sacked colleagues were taken back and their union got back the recognition. They also alleged that the Air India management created a “hostile environment” and no talk was possible in these circumstances.

During the hearing,the management adopted a stern stand and told the court that it should not even hear the pilots when they have been in contempt of court by refusing to withdraw their agitation.

Luthra,the pilots’ counsel,however submitted that the management had discriminated between pilots — between those whose services had been terminated and those who are in service but are also part of the strike. She sought the court’s directions to the management to treat all 434 agitating pilots,including those who were sacked,as one entity and to reinstate the ones who were terminated.

Over 400 pilots owing allegiance to the IPG have been on strike since May 7 and around 20 pilots are on an indefinite hunger strike in Mumbai and Delhi.

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