Talks on to Stave-off Air India Pilots Strike

New Delhi/Mumbai, March 8 (IANS) Talks were on Tuesday to stave-off a strike by Air India pilots Wednesday, a company official said.

"Talks are on and arbitration by the chief labour commission is also going on between the union and the management to stave off this strike, which will have a deep impact on our airline that is facing some tough times," a senior Air India official told IANS.

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), a group of pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines, now merged with flag carrier Air India, had served notice Feb 23 for striking work March 9, an official said.

"We have served the notice (more than) 14 days before as per Section 22 of the Industrial Disputes Act. We will strike work March 9," ICPA General Secretary Captain Rishabh Kapoor said.

The association claims that there are differences in salaries and working conditions of pilots of Indian Airlines and Air India and that the management has violated the memorandum of settlement signed in November 2009 on implementing the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations.

The ICPA is also demanding payment of arrears since the date of merger of the two airlines in 2007. The ICPA represents some 800 pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines.

Talks between Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi and a section of the pilots demanding pay parity and better working conditions failed to break the deadlock on Monday.

"I patiently heard what the association had to tell me. They raised some immediate concerns (demands) which I will take up with my secretary and management soon," Ravi had told reporters here after the meeting.

According to the minister, the association had conveyed that it would take a final decision after consulting its senior members.

"On my part I have appealed to the association not to go on strike and to maintain normalcy," Ravi said.

The cash-strapped airline had reported a decrease in its net loss for the fiscal 2009-2010 -- at Rs.5,551 crore as against a net loss of Rs.7,189 crore in the fiscal 2008-2009.

Last year, the central government had infused Rs.2,000 crore of fresh equity in the flag-carrier last year, in two instalments of Rs.800 crore and Rs.1,200 crore.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his 2011-12 budget, had said: "As a part of the process for financial restructuring of National Aviation Company of India Limited, an amount of Rs.1,200 crore has been provided."


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