Biman flights disrupted as pilots protest

Hundreds of passengers have been stranded after pilots of Bangladesh`s national career called in sick en masse after five colleagues were suspended in a row over plans to raise retirement age.

Last Updated: Oct 28, 2010, 16:01 PM IST

Dhaka: Hundreds of passengers have been
stranded after pilots of Bangladesh`s national career called
in sick en masse after five colleagues were suspended in a row
over plans to raise retirement age even as authorities issued
an ultimatum asking them to join duties within 48 hours.

The pilots on Friday had launched a protest against
Biman Bangladesh Airlines` decision to increase the retirement
age of pilots from 57 years to 62 years, leaving them
conditionally out of insurance and rehabilitation benefits
during the period.

The pilots said Biman extended their working age but
took away a lot of benefits while Civil Aviation Secretary
Shafique Alam Mehedi said the matter would be settled in court
as it was now pending for a judicial decision.

"The flight schedules have exposed to further debacle
as the pilots reported sick" a Biman spokesman said a day
after the ultimatum was issued asking them to withdraw a
decision to work for extra time.

They stopped flying additional hours beyond the
contract between Bangladesh Airline Pilots` Association (BAPA)
and Biman.

On Tuesday, Biman authorities suspended five of their
leaders including the association`s acting president,
prompting the pilots, who were on a partial strike earlier, to
go for a total work abstention with 61 of them reporting sick
yesterday.

The association said they would continue to abstain
from work until the suspension orders were withdrawn and the
administrative order for conditional operation of additional
flights were cancelled.

The situation forced the management reschedule the
flights and allow the Biman pilots, who were earlier given
desk jobs, to operate flights, officials said.

Against a required number of 166, Biman has 117 pilots
who are needed to operate addition flights.

The strike left hundreds of passengers stranded as
flight delays have been ranging between 10 and 27 hours.

The Hajj flights, however, remained out of the purview
of the strike.

Biman management issued a stern warning at an
emergency board meeting last night, asking the pilots to join
duties within 48 hours.

"Tough actions will be taken if they do not join work
calling off their activities within 48 hours," Biman Board
chairman Jamal Uddin Ahmed told newsmen after the meeting.

PTI