Assure us that our demands will be discussed, we'll join duty right now: pilots

Extending an olive branch in an effort to end the fortnight long strike, Civil Aviation Minister, Ajit Singh on Wednesday offered to take back the 101 sacked Air India pilots on a case-by-case basis. He made a fresh appeal to the protesters to return to work.

In a related development, the Delhi High Court slapped contempt notices on 67 pilots and their union for disobeying court orders.

"There is no bar on taking anybody back but it will be done on a case-by-case basis. We have said it again and again that we are willing to talk and I have committed that in Parliament. Please come back to work. There will be no victimisation. They are not willing to talk unconditionally. They have conditions. It is an illegal strike. Air India management was taking whatever action they need to take," Mr. Singh told journalists here.

Mr. Singh said if the pilots make any credible complaint, we will examine it and take action. "What they have said in the press, they have not given to me as a complaint. Any credible complaint will be looked into," he remarked.

“Ready for talks, reinstate pilots first”

In a chat with reporters here, Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) said they were willing to enter into talks with the Minister if the sack orders were withdrawn. "The Minister has not been or is not being briefed properly by the management on the issue. We are ready for talks and they know our mobile numbers also. We are only a call away. Give us an assurance that our demands will be discussed. We are willing to join duty right now. It can be done in 15 minutes. We are not putting a gun on anyhone’s head or ever intend to do so,’’ the IPG joint secretary, Tauseef Mukadam said.

So far, services of 101 pilots have been terminated for reporting sick and not joining duty. The Air India management is disinclined to take back nearly a dozen office bearers of the IPG, which has been de-recognised. "There is a clear disconnect between what the Minister has said in Parliament that there will be no victimisation and what the management was doing by sacking 101 pilots," Mr. Mukadam said.

Badly impacted by the 14-day long strike, Air India is operating a curtailed international flight schedule as part of a contingency plan and stopped taking fresh bookings till June 1.

The pilots are agitating over the rescheduling of Boeing 787 Dreamliner training and matters relating to their career progression. The IPG also accused the airline management of financial irregularities in leasing of planes, saying that the airline had incurred a loss of Rs. 4,324.28 crore over five years from 2005 on account of leased aircraft operations alone.

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