Air India forms committee for reinstating sacked pilots

By Rohit Vaid, IANS,

New Delhi: National carrier Air India Thursday formed a three-member committee to look into the issue of reinstating 101 sacked pilots.

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“We have formed a three-member committee which includes high level officials. The committee will look into the reinstatement of 101 sacked pilots on a case-to-case basis,” a senior Air India official told IANS.

“This step is in line with the Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh’s stand that there will be no victimisation and that pilots will be taken back but on a case-to-case basis,” the official said.

The three members of the committee are director (Personnel) N.K Jain, director (Engineering) K.M. Unni and executive director (Industrial Relations) R. Harihar.

According to the official, the sacked pilots will need to first file an application to rejoin and the committee will thereafter look into the matter.

The development comes four days after Delhi High Court directed the pilots and the airline’s management to hold conciliation talks from July 10-12 under the supervision of the chief labour commissioner to resolve the deadlock after the first round of talks which failed July 6, 2012.

Meanwhile, the pilots on other hand said Thursday that they will challenge this move by the airline in Delhi High Court Friday when the matter will come for a hearing.

Last week, the pilots had accused the management of of retracting on its commitment to “sympathetically” consider their grievances even as nearly 300 pilots having allegiance to IPG started reporting to work after nearly two months of strike.

After initially making 14 demands, the pilots are now only asking for reinstatement of their 101 colleagues who were sacked during the strike.

The pilots having allegiance to Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) called off their strike after Air India last Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that it would sympathetically consider their grievances.

The airline expects to have nearly 50 co-pilots and 50 commanders ready to resume duties in a short period of time.

“We expect to have nearly 50 co-pilots and 50 commanders to resume duties within the end of this month,” the official said.

However, before resuming work, the pilots will have to get their fitness checked by doctors and undergo refresher training and a mandatory route flying check.

For the route flying check, the pilots who have not flown an aircraft for over 30 days will operate a flight with a check (instructor) pilot who will oversee their performance.

After that, the pilots resuming duty will be assigned a flying schedule.

The trouble for the airline started May 8 when IPG members took mass sick leave, protesting against the move to provide Boeing-787 Dreamliner training to pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.

Air India and Indian Airlines were merged in 2007 to form a single entity to overcome their sub-optimal performance and in the hope that the step would result in a Rs.1,000 crore profit in the first year itself.

The strike crippled Air India’s international operations and caused an estimate revenue loss of Rs.625 crore.

The losses will keep on mounting till operations are completely restored.

The grounded fleet of Boeing 777s, unused manpower and absence from key routes have hit the airlines’ chances of a financial turnaround.

Currently, the airline is operating only 38 of its 45 international services. Among the axed destinations are Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul and Toronto.

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected])