AI CMD to go?

Capt Mohan  Ranganathan,  Government panel member on safety: “While other airlines need ‘load factor’ (filling up of seats) to survive; Air India has  the ‘dole factor’ to keep it alive.”

Precious nothing, but for lip sympathy from the Government by way of assurances. None of the pilots’ demands were conceded and the Government, instead of the AI management, held the talks.

The strike, called by Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), a body of over 600 pilots belonging to former Indian Airlines which merged with Air India in 2007, hit revenue of the loss-making state-run carrier inflicting fresh losses of over Rs 200 crore, not to speak of loss of passenger goodwill. It will take many more days for the airline to get back on track.

All that the ICPA leaders could say at the end of the talks was that the sacked and suspended pilots would be reinstated and the ICPA’s re-recognition revoked. Ironically, these were not the pre-strike demands (sacking and de-recognition action came after the strike began).

The main demand of the striking pilots was pay parity with AI pilots. The government did not even agree to their demand for immediate announcement of interim  relief, including 75 hours of fixed flying and $1,600 as allowance for overseas flying for IA pilots every month. Instead, the pilots may lose 10 days’ pay for the strike period. ICPA general secretary Rishabh Kapoor conceded that the Government had not made any commitment about the allowances ICPA had demanded.

As for pay parity, the cockpit crew were told to present their case before the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee, which is looking into issues of wage rationalisation and level mapping. The government, however, assured them that the committee would submit its report by November and “it would be shared with them”. It was a small victory for the ICPA that the government held talks with the very leaders whom the AI had sacked.

Another major demand of the pilots was a CBI inquiry into irregularities and corruption by the management. However, the Civil aviation ministry merely said it would be looked into. Informed sources, however, said the pilots have been assured that AI CMD Arvind Jadhav, the target of the agitators’ ire, may be eased out soon.

The strike would have gone on but for a stern message to the ministry from the Prime Minister’s Office on May 5 asking it to take all steps necessary to end the stir, barring offer of any interim package involving cash outgo. 

The ministry and the airline management were told to make ‘alternative arrangements’ in case the pilots were unrelenting.

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