Air India mulls mass sacking, partial shutdown of operations
The government says it is in no mood to show mercy to striking Air India pilots and is considering measures such as mass sacking or a partial shutdown of operations for some time. Filing contempt petition against pilots if they do not resume work soon is another option, a senior civil aviation ministry official said.
A fifth of the 500 striking pilots, belonging to the union Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), have already been sacked. "They (pilots) have landed themselves in this situation when the government is trying to help the airline in all possible ways. If they don't resume work, all options are open including mass-sacking," a senior official from the civil aviation ministry said.
Striking pilots have crippled operations for 15 continuous days, costing the debt-laden airline about 220 crore of losses so far. A part of the international operations will be shutdown for a while and be restructured, the official said, adding that Air India is managing to operate 50% of international operations even with the fewer staff.
"We will not wait for even five days now. It will be too late," the official said, adding that contempt proceedings may begin even before that.
The Delhi High Court on May 17 directed the pilots to either call off strike or face contempt. However, the IPG pilots seem to have climbed down from their earlier stance of exclusive opportunity for flying the much-awaited Boeing 787s as a condition to rejoin work and are now asking for a written assurance from the government promising to revoke the 101 terminations.
"We will join when all are taken back. Verbal assurance is not good enough and they need to assure us in writing. We have written to the minister last Monday that we are open for a dialogue," said IPG spokesperson Captain Taufeeq Mukadam.
To this, the government says that due procedure will be followed for re-inducting sacked pilots but the pilots first have to resume work. "We are not trying to be vindictive at all but they should understand that it is not in anyone's interests," the official said.