Air India pilots call off strike, Govt assures payment of dues
The stir by a section of Air India pilots which led to cancellation of 52 flights was called off on Saturday night after the state-owned airline reportedly assured them that their pending salary and allowances would be cleared in phases before March.
"Things have been sorted out. The management has assured us that they would pay a part of due allowances by 20th of this month, a part of rest by 20th February and clear our dues by March," A S Bhinder, President of Indian Commercial Pilot's Association -- an association of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots said.
The pilots would resume their duties, he added.
Protesting non-payment of their salary and allowances, a section of Air India pilots went on a "no-pay-no-work" agitation from midnight last night.
A total of 52 flights, 44 from Delhi and eight from Mumbai, were cancelled causing inconvenience to hundreds of passengers.
Top ICPA leaders--President Bhinder and General Secretary Rishabh Kapur--had two rounds of discussion with Air India CMD Rohit Nandan and top officials till late tonight.
They pointed out that the payment of productivity-linked incentive (PLI) and flying allowances have been pending since last August, sources said.
The flying allowances constitute 80 percent of the pay package. The airline management today paid the pilots their due salary of November 2011.
While most of the long-haul international flights to destinations like London, New York, Toronto, Tokyo and Chicago operated as scheduled, flights to or from Kabul, Kathmandu, Muscat and Abu Dhabi remained cancelled.
Confusion prevailed at the IGI Airport here with a large number of passengers queueing up at Air India counters to find out the status of their flights as several domestic flights were delayed and some others combined.
Sympathising with the pilots, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said "the employees have a problem, they have not been paid for one-two months.
Allowances have not been paid for quite a few months now. We understand their problem but Air India's finances are in a bad condition. Their accounts were frozen yesterday."
Singh said he would meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee next week over the Air India issue.
"By the end of next week, maybe we will be able to pay...I won't say all the allowances and salaries will be paid but most of it should be paid," he said, adding Air India had a long term financial problem.
Most of the flights cancelled were operated by Airbus A-320s, whereas operations by turbo-prop ATRs, Canadian Regional Jets and the long-haul Boeings continued as usual, airline sources said.
The agitating pilots reported for duty but said they were under stress due to the financial problems they were facing and therefore unable to undertake flight duties, airline sources said.
The ICPA, which has not given a call for the agitation, appealed to the agitators to return to work.