The Delhi high court on Wednesday restrained Air India pilots, who are on mass sick leave since May 7 causing flight disruptions, from “continuing with the illegal strike”, as the national carrier sacked 26 more pilots.
The court order means that pilots can be hauled up for contempt if they continue to strike work. The pilots, however, remained defiant and said the protest would continue till their demands were met.
Represented by the now-derecognised Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), the pilots issued a statement saying they were willing to meet officials and requested aviation minister Ajit Singh “to open a channel of negotiation”.
The minister, who sought an end to the strike and an apology to passengers, said “disruption and discussion cannot go hand-in-hand”.
Around 350 pilots reported sick on Wednesday, forcing 10 flights to be cancelled. So far, 36 pilots have been sacked. Ten were thrown out on Tuesday.
Singh warned that AI, whose financial health is precarious and has been losing Rs 10 crore a day to the strike, might downsize international operations.
“AI is almost bankrupt. (It) is not able to pay salaries for months, not paid to airport authority and oil marketing companies,” he said.
IPG has around 450 members and they fly international. AI has 1,600 pilots on its rolls. IPG members have been on "sick leave" to protest the national carrier's decision to send pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA) to train on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
In 2007, AI and IA were merged to form Air India Limited.
Pilots have been asked to report for duty by 10am Thursday, failing which AI might move court to seek contempt proceedings, said an official, who refused to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media.