India’s pilot strike has forced the national carrier, Air India, to implement a ‘no work, no pay’ principle as nearly half of its 1,600 pilots continue to protest on the seventh day compelling the company to ground 185 flights on Tuesday.
Nine of the union leaders of the recently de-recognised Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) have already been served notice for criminal contempt of court for not being able to end the agitation as ordered, even as the Delhi High Court continues to blame both sides for the failure to rectify the current situation. The pilot strike has already cost Air India a hefty £9.5million and an official source, on conditions of anonymity, revealed that the company was trying to gather resources to pay the rest of the employees and even bank loans were being organised. The revenue loss can be attributed to the cancellation and rescheduling of 885 flights since the strikes began on April 26 at midnight.
Air India’s pilots on strike, half of whom were previously working on the now redundant Indian Airlines, demand equality in pay with their Air India counterparts. Indian Airlines merged with Air India in 2007 and it has since been alleged that those who came to the merger from Air India are paid more.
According to an Air India official, the airline has now adopted new operations plans that will see 100-200 flights running, including their low-cost carrier Alliance Air, until the strike is resolved. Air India had also previously hired an Airbus aircraft from Kingfisher Airlines to help during the strikes. According to the new operations plans, the airline will fly fewer flights and only use wide-bodied aircrafts.
“Currently, our curtailed operations are on. We had earlier stopped ticket bookings till May 6. Passenger loads will come down and we will be able to tide over this period,” the official concluded.
The nine union leaders who have been held for contempt of court have been further ordered to remain in court while the criminal proceedings are carried out on May 25, according to the two-member bench of Justice BD Ahmed and Justice Veena Birbal. This, however, has not deterred them for their efforts as they pledge to carry on with their protests.
Captain AS Bhinder, who was among the nine served court notice, told IANS news service: “We will continue our strike. We are prepared to face any consequence. We know we are right and we have the support of 800 pilots with us.
“We will also appeal against this notice soon.”
The protesting pilots have written a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding pay parity with their counterparts and have accused the company of gross financial mismanagement. Their demands also include the resignation of chairman and managing director, Arvind Jadhav.