Air India restores bonus, striking pilots adamant


Mumbai : National carrier Air India’s striking pilots refused to call off their agitation Sunday even as the management agreed to meet one of their demands and restored the productivity-linked incentive (PLI).

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Even as the management offered the olive branch after five-hour talks, the pilots demanded that they also be paid their three-months arrears.

“The management has agreed to reverse PLI but they haven’t made any commitment to pay our three-months arrears. We will call off our strike only when the airline assures us of this,” Captain V.K. Bhalla, who is representing the agitating senior executive pilots, told IANS.

A senior airline official said a committee would be constituted to look into the the PLI modalities.

Around 400 senior executive pilots have threatened to go on mass sick leave to protest the airline’s decision to cut their incentives.

Air India spokesman Jitendra Bhargava, however, said the management would ensure flights are normal by Monday.

At least 22 flights, including international flights, were cancelled Sunday, the second day of the strike, he said.

Eleven flights were cancelled Saturday as several pilots failed to report for duty.

“International flights from Delhi to Bangkok, Singapore, Dubai, Kathmandu and a few other destinations were cancelled as some pilots put on duty did not report for work,” an Air India official told IANS.

The civil aviation ministry has called a meeting of all airlines Tuesday to discuss the situation arising out of the Air India pilot’s agiation as well as a similar protest by Jet Airways pilots earlier this month.

The beleaguered carrier Wednesday decided to slash the PLIs of employees by 25 to 50 percent as part of its cost-cutting measures. The airline’s current debt is about Rs.16,500 crore and its losses stood at Rs.7,200 crore in fiscal 2008-09 that ended March 31.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Sunday condemned the national carrier’s decision to slash the wages and PLI of its pilots and demanded the government’s intervention in the Air India strike.

“The country knows that Air India incurred losses due to wrong policies of the government and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel. It is ironical that instead of making the minister accountable for the present state of affairs of Air India, the pilots and workers are made to suffer,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

“Instead of taking any action against the minister, the government has allowed Air India management to hold (the) staff responsible for the present mess in Air India. This is the worst injustice heaped upon the workers who are still working honestly,” he added.

The BJP spokesperson further said: “(The) BJP demands immediate withdrawal of pay cuts imposed upon pilots and others.” The party also demanded a white paper on the reasons for the present financial status of Air India.