Aviation Minister Ajit Singh hit out at striking Air India pilots, saying that the real reason for their strike was the fact that did not want Indian Airlines pilots to be trained to fly the dreamliner aircraft, although it was Air India who had wanted the merger in the first place.
” The issue raised is that promotion must come in six years and not ten. But the real reason is that they don’t want anyone else to be trained to fly the dreamliner aircraft”, said Singh, adding “How can pilots refuse cross training when it was Air India that wanted the merger with Indian Airlines? No one wanted to fly the international services business class and first class services because they had no faith that the crafts would take off on time. Who is to blame for that?”
Singh was quick to add however that Air India would not suspend its international operations. “Sometimes you have to undergo short term difficulties for long term gain”, he said.
With regards to the non payment of salaries that has also been raised as an issue, Singh said that the cabinet had cleared the payment of dues, adding that salaries had been paid to all employees until February 2012. “Only April and May are pending and by June we hope to clear all dues”, he said.
Singh also said that he was not unwilling to talk to pilots but confessed that given the fact that they had also ignored an order by the Delhi High Court to return to work, he did not know how to proceed. “If they are not willing to follow the court order, why will they listen to me?”
The stand off between the government and striking pilots is now in its third day with no sign of a resolution. Air India was forced to cancel 18 international flights today.
The Air India management has so far fired over 30 pilots for their refusal to report to work over a dispute regarding the training schedules for the Boeing Dreamliner aircraft that the airline is set to acquire.
Over 200 pilots belonging to the union Indian Pilots Guild have stayed away from work since Tuesday.The union has since been de-recognised by the airline management.