Nine Air India pilots face contempt threat

Nine Air India pilots face contempt threat

New Delhi: Air India Ltd said on Tuesday it won’t pay salaries for April to 840 pilots who have been on strike since last week, even as the Delhi high court issued contempt notices to the nine pilots leading the protest.

“We are implementing no work, no pay against all those who are not reporting for duty," an Air India official said, requesting anonymity. “Their April salary will not be processed if they do not join work."

The official said the airline was garnering resources to pay the salaries of other employees, including organizing bank loans. State-owned Air India has been flying only 35-40 flights a day, instead of the usual 320, and has blocked domestic bookings for the past five days because of the strike.

Nearly half the airline’s pilot workforce, who are members of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (Icpa), have been on strike since 26 April, demanding an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into how Air India ran up a debt of $8 billion (Rs 35,440 crore) in four years.

The pilots, who used to work for Indian Airlines before 2007, also want wage parity, promised when the government decided to merge the airline with Air India. Responding to a query on what happens if the strike continues for a fortnight, aviation minister Vayalar Ravi said: “I hope wisdom will prevail. The government is always willing to defuse the issue."

The court issued notices to all the pilots on Icpa’s nine-member executive committee, who have already been fired by Air India for calling the strike.

The pilots have two weeks to respond on why the court should not invoke contempt proceedings, both civil and criminal. The next hearing will be on 25 May. The pilots have been asked to write a letter seeking reinstatement. The management is willing to reinstate them, provided they end the strike, said a government official, requesting anonymity.

Icpa members, however, said they want a written assurance. “This management is totally untrustworthy... A pilot was sacked two years back, and promised to be taken back, is still out on the roads," said one of the dismissed pilots, asking not to be named.

PTI contributed to this story.