Deadlock over: Pilots call off stir, to report for duty tonight
After five hours of tough negotiations, the Civil Aviation ministry agreed to recognise the ICPA, reinstate suspended pilots and to look into irregularities.
New Delhi: Air India pilots tonight called off their 10-day-long strike after the government agreed to reinstate sacked and suspended pilots, restore recognition to their union and look into their complaints of irregularities.
Over 700 pilots, belonging to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and owing allegiance to the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), as also executive pilots, will return to work tonight, Captain AS Bhinder, the association president told reporters.
Emerging after five hours of tough negotiations with the civil aviation ministry officials, Bhinder along with ICPA general secretary Rishabh Kapur said all pilots sacked and suspended during the stir would be reinstated.
ICPA, which was derecognised soon after the agitation started, will be recognised again, they said. “Government has given us assurances that they will look into all our demands including our complaints of irregularities against the airline management," Bhinder said.
One of the major sticking points was the pilots’ demand for compensation of 75 'fixed flying hours allowance', which their Indian Airline colleagues get. The striking pilots have been demanding that all sackings, suspensions and transfers effected during the strike period be revoked, ICPA's recognition be restored, the contempt of court petition filed by Air India management be withdrawn, a CBI probe into the alleged corruption and mismanagement be ordered and all other issues be tackled in a time-bound manner.
Asked about their demand for removal of Air India CMD, Arvind Jadhav, Bhinder said, "Our answer to this is that the government has agreed to look into all the irregularities".
Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi expressed happiness over the pilots ending their stir. "There is no ill feeling and there will be no feeling of vengeance," he said. Asked about the fate of the contempt notices in the Delhi high court, he noted that the court has fixed the next date of hearing for May 25. The minister said he was thankful to the pilots for "agreeing to our suggestions and withdrawing the strike". "Interests of all sections of employees will be taken care of by the Dharmadhikari Committee," he said. "We have received representations from other sections of employees also and asked them to approach the Committee.”
The three-member committee will give its report in the next few months, Ravi said. The strike had resulted in the grounding of up to 90% of the airline operations. Air India had sacked seven pilots and suspended six and the management. The Delhi high court had slapped contempt notices on nine office-bearers of the derecognised ICPA for disobeying its order to call off the strike. The airline has suffered an estimated operational loss of Rs. 150 crore.
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