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Govt virtually shuts doors on agitating AI pilots

Govt virtually shuts doors on agitating AI pilots

New Delhi: Virtually shutting the doors on the striking Air India pilots, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Wednesday said the sacked cockpit crew could return only if they applied afresh when the ailing national carrier advertised for inducting more of them.

‘As far as we are concerned, the pilot's strike is over. If the (striking) pilots don't accept Dharmadhikari report which is part of the airline's turnaround plan, I don't think there is any point in their coming back. If terminated pilots want to come back, they will have to apply afresh,’ Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters.

His comments came on the 30th day of the agitation when the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG) members staged silent marches in Delhi and Mumbai to press their demands relating to career progression, apart from reinstatement of their 101 sacked colleagues and restoration of recognition of their union.

Indicating that the sacked pilots could be replaced by new ones, Singh said 90 pilots were currently undergoing training and would be available for flying in August.

‘We're making sure we have enough resources - pilots and engineers to operate the new flights we have planned,’ he said in reply to a spate of questions on the pilots' strike.

‘They (pilots) have decided not to come back. They have trashed the Dharmadhikari Report’ which recommended several steps for integration of the staff of the two erstwhile airlines post their 2007 merger, he said.

‘Our stand is that the strike is illegal. The High Court has also said it. They also did not give notice (for the strike)... They are still welcome if they want to come back, but there should be no pre-condition,’ Singh said.

Maintaining that the truncated international schedule being operated during the strike had stabilised, Singh also announced that Air India would get three new Boeing 787 Dreamliners this month itself and unveiled new global operations plan, including starting of new flights.

Observing that Air India would soon advertise for taking more pilots and approach agencies to hire them, the Minister said, ‘It is up to them (striking pilots) whether they want to come back to work....They can always respond to the advertisements of Air India.’

Asked whether more pilots would be sacked, he said ‘It is up to the management to decide whether they want to extend this action to others also.’ Over 200 pilots are on strike.

He also said there were sufficient number of pilots to fly the new B-787 Dreamliner planes.

Regarding the issue of compensation being sought by the national carrier from Boeing for delay in delivery of the B- 787s, Singh said the airline Board had moved a proposal after talking to the US manufacturer. ‘It will come up before the CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) soon.’

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