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AI crisis: Govt softens stance,pilots want it all

Pilots want an interim relief,re-instatement of those sacked and re-recognition of their union.

Written by Smita Aggarwal | New Delhi |
May 5, 2011 12:37:08 am

The informal talks between the government and the sacked Air India pilots,held for the first time since they went on strike last week,achieved little as pilots demanded an immediate interim relief,apart from re-instatement of those sacked and re-recognition of their banned union.

The civil aviation ministry,which softened its stance,by agreeing to informal talks with pilots after multiple “feelers” were sent to them,called the meeting unfruitful as sacked pilots refused to budge from their stance. The meeting,chaired by joint secretary Prashant Sukul,was attended by Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) leaders including general secretary Rishabh Kapoor and president Ashim Bhinder.

“It seems they (pilots) do not want to resolve the issue. They are acting like a bunch of school-college kids,unaware of the implications of their actions,” said a government official,and added that their demand for an interim relief can only be met by the retd Justice Dharmadhikari committee formed to look into all HR-related issues. The ministry will be holding another round of talks with them on Friday.

Earlier in the day,civil aviation secretary Nasim Zaidi and Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav updated cabinet secretary KM Chandrsekhar on the latest position at the strike-hit state-owned carrier. While extending its full support to the management,the Cabinet Secretary is believed to have insisted on resolving outstanding issues at the earliest and putting an end to the eight-day old strike.

Emerging from today’s meeting with the government,Kapoor said,“We are happy to have finally met and held talks. The talks are moving forward and going in a positive direction. we will meet again tomorrow”.

However,government officials described the pilots as “ill-behaved,” and said,“they stopped short of abusing those in the meeting.” In the three-hour meeting,pilots reiterated their demands for ouster of Jadhav and pay parity. The pilots refused the government proposal of requesting the committee to fast track their demands. “They refused to present their demand to the committee,saying they do not recognise it,” said the source. The agitating executive pilots,who have reported sick so far,will have to undergo a stringent medical check-up before resuming duties if the total period exceeds 14 days. The airline has already decided not to process salaries of those striking work for April.

Meanwhile,Air India hired 18 chartered flights —16 domestic and two international — from Kingfisher Airlines and Air Arabia to clear backlog. “Over 12,000 Air India passengers have been transferred to other domestic and international carriers at the four metros,” said the spokesperson. The carrier is likely to induct additional seat capacity on wet-lease basis. The airline start accepting fresh bookings for select routes till May 8. Earlier,it had suspended domestic bookings till May 4 to clear backlog.

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