Air India At Stake: Pilots Strike And Govt. Makes Further Plans

Posted on June 25, 2012 in Politics

By Hariharan Ramakrishnan:

The Air India, the government-owned airways, is in crisis, losing about Rs. 500 crore with 400 pilots striking since May 7, 2012. The pilots raised this as an issue regarding the pay given to them. With this strike Air India’s market share declined to 16.2% in May from 17.6% in April and remains at 4th rank overall among other Indian carriers. Air India CMD Rohit Nandan has informed that the contingency plan will lengthen up to July 31 if the striking pilots do not return to work, which was earlier up to June 1. CMD Rohit Nandan has told that Rs. 300 crore losses were taken on the savings made from the Delhi- Toronto flights.

Flight reductions and cancellations:

The strike has let down the number of international flights to 38 from 45. The flights to Europe and North America are hampered yet. The good thing is that the domestic operations are running normal despite the strike. The international destinations available are to Seoul, Honk Kong, Osaka and Toronto and the flight schedule to UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Singapore, Thailand and SAARC countries are normal. Flights to Jeddah and Tokyo are framed to take off next month.

The 120 pilots apart from the striking lot are complaining that they are overburdened with work in the truncated international flights in the absence of their co-pilots. The working pilots have reported the civil aviation minister that the overwork has stressed them and it will affect the flight safety. A team of executive pilots held a discussion with CMD Rohit Nandan to bring their sacked pilots. A member of the executive team said that the CMD is ready to bring back the pilots but retaining the 10 executive committee members of the Indian Pilots’ Guild.

But CMD Nandan has also reacted saying “We are following the flight duty time limitation guidelines. Out of 120, only 28 are not available for various reasons,” adding, “Pilots work only 64 hours compared to 72 hours of flight in a month before strike.

Air India has the highest percentage of cancellations with 3.5% due to pilots striking owing loyalty to Indian Pilots’ Guild and this statistics is followed by Kingfisher at 3.2%.

Illegal Strike:

The civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh reported that the strike called is illegal as there was no prior notice to the authority. The minister said that the talks were on and the pilots went on sick leave leading to cancellation of flights. He quoted that 4 international flights were cancelled as 100 pilots refused to work.

He also said “We are not waiting. We are making plans. If you take the pilots trained in V-737 or Airbus 320 in 3 to 6 months they can be trained to fly these plans” adding “There will be many hiccups on the way”. Sarcastically mentioning that pilots won’t be able to survive without the management’s support; he informed that plans for resurrection will be implemented as per Dharmadhikari Report.

The minister said that their issues will be addressed according to Dharmadhikari report once the pilots return to work and government will not be vindictive against them. He stressed that proper discussions with the authority should be followed for addressing their grievances and blamed the act of striking straight away. He emphasized that appropriate action would be taken against those involved in the stir and already 101 pilots those had obliged allegiance to the Indian Pilots’ Guild have been terminated from work. He said that “every section has grievances and there are ways to find solution” which is known from the fact that crores of public money is invested in the carriers.

Although there is a negative thought from the striking pilots’ side that the report is partial to erstwhile Indian Airways pilots. However the report also deals with the salary scale depending upon the type of carrier piloted such as wide carrier and narrow carrier and the number of hours of flight.

It is clear from the above points that taking back pilots in the organisation is welcome than other plans which will really end in mini-disasters. It is also evident that the ministry is now strict with the striking pilot and plans to dole out appropriate justice, but is also ready to accept them and address their issues. It seems that the problem persists within the dissidents only. They should foresee the loss occurring to the government-owned corporation and the inconvenience caused to lots of citizens. It is known that 10 crores are lost every day due to the strike. The ministry is also ready to induct new pilots after training which will cause pain and economic loss both to the management and the pilots. It is an uphill task for the management to induct new trainees to work, sacking the striking pilots in the process. It is all in the hands of the 400 striking pilots to save themselves and not to cause agony to the government and the people. There is also chance for the 101 pilots to retain their places. All that is required to be done is make proper discussions within themselves and represent them acceptably to the authority. Let’s wish that there’s an end to this problem, creating relief to people and the government. Above all this, the authorities should keep in mind to produce a justifiable solution to the voices of the pilots.