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Get ready for another pilots' strike soon

Indian Pilots Guild has threatened to go on strike, alleging that the AI management is granting special privileges to their counterparts in the Indian Commercial Pilots Association

The ailing Maharaja's sinking ship has sustained yet another puncture. With internal squabbling between the two antagonistic AI pilot groups reaching a new nadir, yet another strike could be in the offing. The 400-member strong Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) has threatened to wage a strike, claiming that the AI management is giving special privileges to its rival pilot body, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA).


Grounded again? The 400-member strong Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) is
planning to send
a notice to the Air India management, intimating it of the
planned strike. 
Representation Pic

IPG comprises pilots of the erstwhile Air India from the pre-merger days, and its members usually operate on the international routes. ICPA, on the other hand, was the pilot body of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, and comprises pilots mostly operating on the domestic sector.

The bone of contention, over which fur has been flying, is the privilege of manoeuvring advanced aircraft like the Boeing 777 and the soon-to-be-purchased Dream-liners. While IPG pilots have been demanding exclusive right to fly these crafts, ICPA pilots want to try their hand at these carriers as well.

Confirming the development, IPG President Jitendra Awhad told MiD DAY, "It is true we are planning to go on strike. We are discussing all the possibilities, including that of serving a notice to the management." Awhad did not divulge the exact date on which they would serve notice, or that of the commencement of the strike.

Insider speaks
Speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, a governing council member of IPG explained, "The reason why we are going on strike is that Air India is unfairly promoting pilots of the ICPA over our organisation, giving them more opportunities for career growth. We will not tolerate this kind of discrimination, and hence have decided to go on strike. The governing council  will meet early next week, and by November 2, we will serve a notice to the AI management, intimating them of the impending strike. After that, the strike could commence on any day."

"The Ministry and the management unanimously decided to merge Indian Airlines with Air India in year 2007. Four years on, nothing has changed. In spite of the merger, both the airlines have been functioning like two separate entities. No concrete steps have been taken by the management to effect the integration of manpower. The management appointed the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee to suggest policies that would promote the interests of IPG members after the merger. However, we get a strong sense that the management is granting unfair privileges to a certain section of the employees," he further added.

Empty threat?
Sources inside the Union Civil Aviation Ministry told MiD DAY that the ultimatums issued by the IPG members were empty threats, calculated to put pressure on the Group of Ministers (GoM), who met yesterday.
"These are empty threats, intended to put pressure on the management and the government," said a highly placed source in the Civil Aviation Ministry.

However, sources close to ICPA begged to differ, claiming that IPG pilots were hostile to their ICPA counterparts as they did not want them to be granted the authority to fly advanced aircraft like the Boeing 777, to which they hitherto had exclusive access.

On the other hand ICPA pilots have been campaigning for the right to fly these carriers, saying that opportunities should be given on the basis of seniority, and that ICPA pilots should be privy to the same flight opportunities as IPG pilots.

The Other side
An Air India spokesperson said, "We have not received any written intimation from the pilot organisation, so it will not be good to comment on the issue."

AI's performance review
The Group of Ministers (GoM), led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, met yesterday to review the airlines' performance. They were scheduled to discuss financial packages to be
granted to the ailing AI, and also finalise plans to order
27 Boeing Dreamliners.

Sinking fortunes
The national carrier has over 42,000 people on its rolls, with about 4,400 cabin crewmembers and 2,000 pilots for its fleet of over 100 aircraft. While the total losses incurred by Air India have crossed the Rs 40,000 crore mark, the cumulative loss since its merger with Indian Airlines in 2007 has been over Rs 13,300 crore. Recently, the government unveiled plans for a Rs 740-crore bailout package for Air India, over and above the Rs 123 crore the government promised to give the carrier earlier this year.

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