Mumbai: Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh invited 12 unions of state-owned Air India Ltd on Monday to discuss recommendations of the D.M. Dharmadhikari committee that was appointed to resolve human resources issues dogging the national flag carrier, including parity in salaries, working conditions and seniority, even as the strike led by the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) entered the 14th day.
Singh, however, ignored IPG that represents 450 pilots who fly long-haul flights, of which around 420 pilots continue to report sick as on Monday. The airline management had deregistered IPG on 8 May, but the continuing strike has resulted in the cancellation of several international flights and a revenue loss of more than Rs 200 crore to the national carrier till date.
The airline management has taken a tough stance. It sacked 30 more pilots on Monday to take the total to 101. It has also requested permission from aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to cancel the licences of 11 more pilots. The airline also cancelled several long-haul international flights till 25 May because of the strike.
Seeking a solution: Aviation minister Ajit Singh at a meeting with the Air India union leaders in New Delhi on Monday. Photo by Shahbaz Khan/PTI.
A senior union leader who attended the meeting with Singh on Monday said it “was routine, ahead of implementing the Dharmadhikari committee proposals. He (Singh) termed these recommendations as the last hope for Air India and requested the unions to accept the recommendations as it will end all the problems once and all”. The union leader requested anonymity.
Another union leader, who also attended the same meeting, said the government will shortly come out with the recommendations. “The minister assured one more round of meetings with unions. He also informed that unions can separately meet the minister after 22 May. He also spelt out the turnaround plan for the airline,” the leader said, requesting anonymity.
In mid-April, the government announced a Rs 30,000 crore bailout package for 10 years for Air India, which had a debt of Rs 43,777 crore on 31 December. The airline has accumulated losses of Rs 20,000 crore over the past four fiscal years.
Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh invited 12 Air India unions to discuss solutions to the airline’s staff problems. Mint’s P.R. Sanjai looks at the implications of the move at a time when Air India’s pilot strike continues
Mint could not immediately contact Singh for his comments.
The Dharmadhikari committee had submitted its report to the ministry of civil aviation on 31 January. Subsequently, the ministry had constituted a three-member committee comprising officers from the department of public enterprises, ministry of civil aviation and an independent expert to examine the recommendations of the Dharmadhikari committee and formulate a timeline for their implementation.
Meanwhile, a senior Air India executive, requesting anonymity, said two more striking pilots have resumed work.
However, IPG joint secretary Tauseef H. Mukadam claimed those two pilots were not part of the guild. “The total number of striking pilots are now 420 out of total 450 IPG pilots,” Mukadam said.
He added that doctors cannot come at residence of pilots to examine the health of pilots. “We will be doing our routine medical check-up that is required for pilots who are sick for 14 days.”
On Saturday, Singh told Mint that after 14 days, Indian Air Force doctors would examine the sick pilots adding “if they are not sick, they will lose their flying licences”.
IPG is demanding that training on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet planes be restricted to pilots belonging to the erstwhile Air India, which merged in 2007 with state-run Indian Airlines to form a new entity called the National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, later renamed Air India Ltd.