Union minister for civil aviation Ajit Singh maintained that the expelled Air India pilots will not be taken back and new pilots will soon be recruited. Today, the ongoing Air India stalemate enters its 34th day.
The management, however, seems to be playing the divide-and-rule game instead of trying to find a solution. According to official sources in the aviation ministry and the airline, the ongoing stalemate may end in the near future.
The Air India management, however, is taking help from the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) to recruit new pilots. The ICPA is a rival pilot union of Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) — the union currently on strike — and went on a 10-day strike last year making the airline suffer a loss of over Rs 100 crore.
A senior Air India official, on condition of anonymity, said, “The honorable minister has said that the 100 expelled pilots will not be reinstated. Instead, a new recruitment process will soon begin. But where are the new pilots? In the past six months, more than 80 pilots have quit the airline because of pending salaries and carrier progression.
No new pilot wants to join Air India. The minister made such an important statement after an assurance from the airline, which is relying on a pilot union for the exercise. But last year, the same pilot union went on a strike and the Air India management called the strike illegal and terminated a dozen of their pilots,” said.
The source added that if the minister wants to speak of discipline in the airline, the Air India management should not promote dirty politics. “Using the conflict between the two unions as a tool to run the airline will certainly dent the Maharaja again. If the minister wants to make the airline profitable, he will have to ensure that politics is not encouraged.”
A senior civil aviation ministry official, too, accepted that the Air India management is taking the ICPA’s help to recruit new pilots. Captain Rohan Saharan, general secretary, ICPA, however, denied this: “Why will the management take our help in recruiting new pilots? I don’t find any truth in the above statement.” Meanwhile, an Air India spokesman, said, “Recruiting pilots is a organisational process and the organisation is capable of handling it.”
400 IPG pilots have gone on strike for the past 34 days
100 pilots have been expelled so far
R350 crore is the net loss estimated due to the strike