New Delhi, Apr 27: The Delhi High Court today directed over 800 Air India pilots to call off their agitation for better pay hike as the airline management sacked six leaders of agitating pilots and derecognised their union. As the High Court asked the pilots to resume work in larger public interest, government backed Air India's action against the protestors.
At least 37 flights were cancelled during the day, causing hardship to passengers, many of whom were accommodated by other airlines. These included several on the Delhi-Mumbai sector and those to Kathmandu, Bangkok, Raipur, Aurangabad, Srinagar, Hyderabad, Nagpur and Leh.
Following an urgent hearing of AI management's plea against the strike, Justice Gita Mittal of Delhi High Court barred the pilots from resorting to any kind of demonstration and directed them to report for work.
Soon after the order, the leaders of Indian Commercial Pilots Association went into a huddle seeking legal opinion, with a senior leader saying “we will take a decision after our consultations are complete”.
The services of ICPA leaders, including its president Capt A S Bhinder and general secretary Capt Rishabh Kapur, were terminated by the management, senior airline officials said. Two other agitating pilots were suspended. The management derecognised the ICPA and sealed its offices, including those in Delhi and Mumbai.
Addressing a press conference, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said AI's action against striking leaders was “right” and asserted that ICPA's demands cannot be accepted.
“Nobody can dictate terms to government, especially a few pilots. They are the highest paid people in this country and ... what they do is to try to threaten the government and dictate the Air India,” the minister said, while appealing to the striking pilots and other employees to cooperate and help the airline come out of its crisis.
Meanwhile, the three-member Justice Dharmadhikari Committee, set up last month to go into the HR-related issues following the merger of the two state-run carriers, met today and decided to take the views of all Air India employees and their unions on their problems.
The committee, which started functioning only on Monday, would hold its next meeting by the mid-May as it has four months to submit its report to the Civil Aviation Ministry. It would examine issues like integration across various cadres of erstwhile Air India and Indian Airlines and determine seniority and the principles of pay parity between all the employees.
Coming down heavily on striking erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi today ruled out accepting their demand “at gun point” for pay parity with Air India pilots as a panel was looking into it.
Describing the strike, which led to cancellation of over 20 flights and delay of many others, as most irresponsible, he said the Government would not be cowed down by their threat to put the institution at “gun point” or dictate terms.
Ravi also said pilots are the highest paid in the country.
He said the pilots should behave in a responsible manner as a committee was looking into their demands as had been promised by him to union members of Air India in Mumbai recently.
“When they complained about less flying hours, I gave direction to Air India chairman that they must get proper flying hours and there should be no complain,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court today asked the pilots to call off their agitation.
The Air India management has declared the strike illegal, derecognised the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) and sealed its offices in Delhi and Mumbai.
The ICPA gave the letter intimating about the strike to the national carrier last night after conciliation talks with the management before the Chief Labour Commissioner failed.
The 800-odd striking pilots belong to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and owe allegiance to the ICPA. The merged entity—Indian Airlines and Air India—has about 1,200 pilots.
The ICPA claims that while the Air India pilots enjoy a big fixed salary component, the same is almost minuscule for the former IA pilots. PTI