CAPTAINS OF CRASH- LANDING
A union holds the national carrier to ransom even as the civil aviation minister refuses to negotiate until the striking pilots return to work
Bhavna Vij- Aurora and
The local office of the Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP) in the Panchpakhadi area of Thane, 30 km outside Mumbai, is an unlikely headquarters for the striking pilots of Air India. Outside, in the driveway and courtyard, are several cages filled with exotic birds. Jitendra Awhad, 47, an MLA from Thane, says he loves birds, particularly their chirping.
The birds are well- fed, but locked in Awhad’s cages, they will never fly. As president of the striking Indian Pilots’ Guild ( IPG), a union which represents the pilots of the pre- merger Air India, Awhad has caged the national airline. Prior to this, pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines ( IA) led by the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association ( ICPA) organised two major strikes in September 2009 and April- May 2011. The three strikes have cost a loss of over Rs 500 crore and disruption of flights for nearly a month in total.
Air India’s international flights are grounded, leaving thousands of passengers and holiday- makers stranded. The airline, being generously fed with taxpayers’ money, will never fly high as long as it remains in the clutches of its unions, which encourage their members to play truant time and again. This time, 341 of the total 450 Air India pilots, all members of IPG, have reported sick.
The strike began less than a month after the Government announced a new Rs 30,000- crore bailout over a 10- year period to Air India. The airline is losing Rs 12 crore every day since the strike started on May 7. It already had cumulative losses of Rs 22,000 crore and an outstanding debt burden of Rs 46,000 crore.
The problem for the domestic carrier started soon after the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines in 2007, with pilots of both carriers following different pay structures and work rules. The IPG feels that the rival union extracted its pound of flesh from the Government, forcing an agreement, granting a salary hike up to Rs 1 lakh per month per pilot, and parity for Boeing 787 Dreamliner
It’s difficult for the common man to understand, but what seems petty to you will determine the career prospects of many of our pilots.
President, Indian Pilots’ Guild training. The ICPA claims that the Government reneged on its promise of a pay hike for the pre- merger Indian Airlines pilots. Both the unions also frequently complain that the pilots are not paid on time, sometimes for as long as six months.
There are regular demands for parity in terms of pay scales and career progression, but the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Air India management have completely failed in addressing the issues, allowing the unions to run amok with their demands. The Government had set up a four- member Justice D. M.
AIR INDIA IS LOSING RS 12 CRORE EVERYDAYSINCE THE STRIKE STARTED