Mumbai/New Delhi: A day after Air India pilots called off their 58-day-old strike, the union which spearheaded the stir today said it may take up to two months before the pilots resume active duty and restore normalcy to the national carrier’s overseas operations.
“All pilots resuming active duty involves more than the administrative procedures. We will have to undergo medical tests, a two-day ground technical refresher course and also one or two sessions on simulators which may take up to two months. Expediting all these processes are in the hands of the management,” Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) joint secretary and spokesperson Tauseef Mukkadam told reporters.
It is, however, difficult to give a definite date (to resume active duty), he said.
Late on Tuesday night, 434 AI pilots called off their strike on direction of the Delhi High Court, which asked them to join duty in 48 hours. This strike was the second longest since the national carrier came into existence in 1946, after a 90-day strike by cockpit crew 38 years ago.
The pilots have already submitted required affidavits in the court. This will be followed by a reconciliatory meeting with the AI management, Chief Labour Commissioner and the pilots in New Delhi on Friday, Mukkadam said.
“At the meeting, we will discuss the reinstatement of pilots, and all those issues which led to current impasse like career progression, inter-se seniority, among others. Though these overlap with the Dharamidhaki Committee report, we will be putting across all these issues.
“The Delhi HC has kept the matter open and it will be monitoring the progress,” Mukkadam said.
Asked how hopeful he is of a solution since the management is yet to confirm that the sacked pilots will be taken back, he said pilots will go with an open mind for the meet.
“The court has observed that we need to resolve all the issues. But this involves taking back all the pilots in some manner. Air India has submitted that it will look at the matter in a sympathetic manner to resolve the issues,” the IPG spokesperson said.
“I expect the same positive spirit will also be carried forward at the Friday meeting and the management will be proactive in resolving the issues,” Mukkadam said.
During the strike, IPG had demanded that training on the Dreamliner jets be restricted to them and not to those from the erstwhile Indian Airlines, saying it would block their career progression chances. Following the stir, the management had sacked 101 pilots and de-recognised IPG.
While the strike by its pilots in 1974 to protest cost cutting measures after a massive hike in fuel prices went on for 90 days, a strike by Air India’s flight engineers had lasted 56 days in 1993-94.
Before the 1993-94 stir, the second longest strike was in the erstwhile Indian Airlines whose pilots went on a five-week agitation in 1991-92 demanding a hike in wages.
This time, IPG, which represents about 450 pilots of the merged national carrier who mainly operate long-haul, wide -body planes, had struck work since 7 May over career progression issues.
The latest strike, which also saw pilots going on protest fast in Delhi and Mumbai from 24 June, was the longest since the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines in 2007.
There have been several strikes since the merger so far, with a major one by Indian Commercial Pilots Association, representing the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots, lasting 11 days last year to demand pay parity with their IPG colleagues.
In May 2010, AI’s biggest union, Air Corporation Employees’ Union, and Air India Aircraft Engineers’ Association had struck work, leading to the sacking of 56 staffers and de-recognition of both these unions.