Air India management has hit back at the striking pilots and terminated the services of six members of the Indian Commercial Pilot Association (ICPA). Among those whose services have been terminated are ICPA President Captain Ashim Bhinder and General Secretary Captain Rishabh Kapoor.The airline has already declared the strike illegal, de-recognised the ICPA and sealed its offices in Delhi and Mumbai after over 600 pilots of the national carrier went on a strike from Tuesday midnight leading to many flights being either cancelled or delayed.Air India has also decided to rope in 150 management pilots – executive pilots – to operate the flights, an airline official said.Air India pilots went on a strike after talks with the management and the Chief Labour Commissioner over pay parity between the pilots with the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India pilots failed.
Reports say that the pilots have also written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking for an investigation by the Central bureau of Investigation (CBI) into management decisions.
The ICPA claims that shortcomings of the management have led Air India into huge debt. They say prior to the merger with Indian Airlines, Air India had a loss of Rs 455 crore that escalated to Rs 16,000 crore within three years.
Sources in the Civil Aviation Ministry say that the Air India Chairman Arvind Jadhav has been given a free hand to deal with the pilots’ strike very firmly.
They say that there is already a four-member committee under former Supreme Court judge Justice DN Dharmadhikari to look into the matter of pay. The other members include R Dholakia, professor at IIM Ahmedabad, Rajeshwar Dayal, director (retd) at Department of Public Enterprises as members along with member secretary Syed Nasir Ali.
The ICPA had given strike notice on February 23 demanding better working conditions and fixed pay component. The union, which had threatened to go on strike from March 9, had deferred their agitation till March 15 following tripartite talks with the carrier’s management and the Chief Labour Commissioner.
Later, the Delhi High Court restrained them from going on strike from March 16 since the conciliation process had started.