Mumbai, Feb 23: Air India's flight operations could face a major disruption on March nine if a section of its pilots go on strike, a 14-day notice for which was served to the airline management here today.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which represents pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, served the strike notice under Section 22 of the Industrial Disputes Act to airline CMD Arvind Jadhav.
The management, on its part, warned the ICPA to "desist from any action which would breach peace and harmony and cause inconvenience to our valued passengers" and said it has sought the "immediate intervention" of the Chief Labour Commissioner to avert the strike.
Charging the management with having "failed" to address their grievances, including pay parity and better working conditions, the union protested the "withdrawal" of flights from profitable routes "to benefit private airlines".
The pilots' body said they were "compelled to issue the strike notice on account of the actions of the incompetent and dishonest handling of industrial relations by the higher echelons of the management".
ICPA General Secretary Capt Rishabh Kapoor told PTI that they have served "the mandatory notice to the management today. We will strike work on March 9".
The union claimed that "various dates and deadlines have come and gone and the management has failed to keep its promises and assurances". As a result, the erstwhile Indian Airlines' pilots have been "incurring heavy financial losses".
The ICPA also alleged "racial discrimination in their own country perpetrated by the national carrier", indicating the differences in pays and perks offered to the expatriate pilots Air India has kept on its rolls.
Apart from differences in salaries and working conditions of pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India, the ICPA members are protesting the regular instances of delay in payment of salaries, "violation" of a Memorandum of Settlement signed in November 2009 and management's "failure" to implement the 6th Pay Commission recommendations.
The ICPA is also demanding payment of arrears since "at least the date of merger" of the two airlines in 2007.
While the ICPA represents around 800 pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, the erstwhile Air India pilots are represented by the Indian Pilots Guild.
The ICPA alleged that the management "has also underutilised Indian Airlines Limited (IAL) pilots due to withdrawal of profitable routes to benefit private airlines".
The pilots' union charged the management with ignoring its representations on underutilisation of these pilots "while benefiting expat pilots who have been engaged to fly Air India Limited (AIL) routes".
"That despite several attempts at collective bargaining, the management has frustrated all attempts on the part of ICPA to resolve these demands and to settle the industrial dispute pacifically and amicably," the ICPA said in its strike notice.
In a notice, Air India management said it had "advised ICPA to desist from any action which would breach peace and harmony and cause inconvenience to our valued passengers".
It said the management was "seriously engaged in turning-around the company and any such actions would only jeopardise these efforts.
Maintaining that Air India was a "public utility service", the management claimed that the ICPA notice violated the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act and the Settlements with the Association.
The notice said the airline has informed and sought the immediate intervention of the Chief Labour Commissioner. PTI