Air India sacks six pilots of striking union


New Delhi : National carrier Air India has sacked six members of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), on strike since Tuesday midnight to demand pay parity and better working conditions, officials said Wednesday.

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“Six members of the ICPA have been terminated from Air India while two more have been suspended,” a senior Air India official told IANS.

According to the official, the sacked pilots include ICPA’s general secretary Captain Rishab Kapoor and other prominent leaders of the group.

“They cannot hold passengers to ransom. Everything was being done to resolve their issues, talks were on, there was a standing committee set up by the minister to look into it. But ICPA jumped the gun by going on strike,” the official said, adding that the airline was doing everything to normalise its operations.

The strike, which was called Tuesday midnight, continued Wednesday with as many as 36 flights in Delhi and 10 in Mumbai getting cancelled — overall, 12 percent of Air India flights have been cancelled.

The airline management has engaged 150 management and executive pilots to operate flights.

The sacking of pilots comes after the flag carrier termed the agitation illegal, as ICPA had given assurance to the Delhi High Court that they would not go on strike. The pilots association has been de-recognised and had its offices sealed.

“ICPA has proceeded on strike despite pendency of proceedings in conciliation and their assurance to Hon’ble Delhi High Court. The strike is therefore not legal,” the official said.

The official said the strike was illegal also on the basis that negotiations were on with the ICPA and the matter was before the Labour Commission.

“No strike is legally permitted during the pendency of the case before the tribunal,” the official said.

Some time ago, Air India had initiated steps with regard to the demands raised by the pilots about parity of pay and working conditions, the official said.

Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi had appointed a four-member committee, headed by former Bombay High Court judge C.S. Dharmadhikari, to look into all issues in a consolidated manner.

“The committee report is expected in around three months. We feel that the pilots should have waited for the submissions in it before resorting to agitational methods,” the official told IANS.

ICPA on its part apologised to passengers, but said that they would not call off their stir unless Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Vayalar Ravi intervened.

“It is the management that has forced us to go on strike, we are the third union to get derecognised,” said ICPA general secretary Captain Rishab Kapoor.

ICPA added that they get threatened by the management if pilots express their view in public and make enquiries on pay and other issues through RTI (Right to Information) applications.

“We want this mismanagement to come to an end so that it becomes a better environment not just for us, the employees, but for all the travellers,” Kapoor said.

The striking pilots of ICPA – of the former Indian Airlines, which merged with Air India later – are demanding parity in pay with the Air India pilots and other issues related to work conditions.

The association claims that there were differences in salaries and working conditions of pilots of Indian Airlines and Air India and that the management has violated the memorandum of settlement signed in November 2009 on implementing the sixth pay commission recommendations.

The ICPA is also demanding payment of arrears since the date of merger of the two airlines in 2007.