Striking AI pilots blink first, ready to talk

Striking AI pilots blink first, ready to talk

Govt sticks to stand, tells them to return to work

The striking pilots of Air India (AI) on Saturday put a step forward in resolving the impasse saying they were prepared to hold talks with the airline “without any pre-conditions”.

But the government stuck to its stand that the pilots should first end their agitation.

The strike, which entered the fifth day on Saturday, led to cancellation of 16 international flights. There was no fresh termination of pilots from the AI rolls which stood at 71 on Friday. The airline has asked the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation to cancel the licences of the 11 office-bearers of Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) which has called for the strike.

With the state-owned airline or the government making no move to resolve the issue, the leaders of the IPG spearheading the agitation on issues of career progression, made their willingness to hold talks without any pre-conditions, clear.

The government, however, continued to maintain a strong line asking the pilots to first end their strike before coming for talks. Speaking to reporters, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh asked the pilots to consider the plight of passengers and said “we are ready for talks but they must call off their strike.

“The first priority must be to make sure that the passengers feel they are being listened to. So let the pilots decide that. Ask for forgiveness from passengers. Start the flights ... we can talk on anything after that,” Singh said.

Speaking at a press meet in Mumbai, IPG president Jeetendra Awhad and senior leader Tauseef Muqaddam said “the ball is in the government’s court” and blamed the airline management for not giving a clear picture to the government.

“We are ready to go back a hundred steps if industrial relations in the company are maintained by the management,” they added.

Informed sources said Ajit Singh is likely to meet former civil aviation ministers to find a solution to the issue. BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav and NCP’s Praful Patel are some of the previous civil aviation ministers.

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