Hyderabad/Mumbai: Hardening its stand, Government on Sunday made it clear that it is not waiting for striking Air India pilots to return to work but making plans to move ahead with fresh inductions.
Reminding the pilots and other employees that their survival was linked to Air India, Ajit Singh said that nobody is going to give anymore public money to the airline and "they will not survive for too long" if the company does not become competitive.
"We are not waiting. We are making plans. If you take the pilots trained in V-737 or Airbus 320, (in) three to six months they can be trained to fly these planes," he told reporters on the sidelines of a book release function in Hyderabad.
Later in Mumbai, the minister stuck to his stand during a meeting with executive pilots who urged the minister to look at an early solution to end the strike by nearly 400 pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild.
"We want an early solution to the strike by the IPG pilots. We wanted the minister to resolve the issue but he stuck to his stand, saying that the pilots will have to end their strike first and the reinstatement of the 101 terminated pilots will be taken up only on case-to-case basis," sources told PTI after the hour-long meeting.
The meeting was held against the backdrop of the executive pilots writing a letter to Singh stating that they were stressed out and would not be able to maintain the curtailed international schedule much longer.
The striking pilots, of whom 101 have been sacked, are protesting alleged discrimination in career progression vis-a-vis their counterparts in the erstwhile Indian Airlines. The pilots have been on strike since May 7.
On a two-day visit to review the Mumbai airport modernisation and upgradation work, Singh is learnt to have bluntly stated that the strike is illegal and that the agitating pilots have not heeded sane advice to return to work.
The minister earlier said, "In our plan for revival, when we implement Dharmadhikari report, we have to be very patient and firm at the same time. There will be many such hiccups on the way." Singh said plans were afoot to induct and train more pilots.
He, however, said the government is ready to listen to the concerns of pilots once they return to work and address them seriously without being vindictive in any way.
"I don't understand why they are on strike to begin with. There are no issues. Whatever few issues they had, that’s what exactly Dharmadhikari report was meant to address.
Meanwhile, a joint front of as many as seven Air India unions also called on the minister and submitted a representation demanding a review of the Air India's proposed plan to hive-off engineering and MRO divisions into a separate subsidiary.
Of the 1,539 Air India pilots, 657 belong to the erstwhile Indian Airlines, 610 in erstwhile Air India and there are 272 executive pilots in the management cadre.
In a bid to put pressure on the government to resolve the crisis, the executive pilots had served a warning in a letter to Singh stating that they cannot maintain the truncated global flight schedule for too long as they are fatigued and do not want to jeopardise lives of passengers and crew.
These senior and management-level cockpit crew have been operating 38 out of 45 flights as part of the truncated international operations.
On the other hand, Air India has already invited applications to hire around 100 new pilots.
"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," Singh had said recently.
First Published: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 17:40