With the Air India pilots' stir entering its third day affecting thousands of travellers, the airline today issued an "ultimatum" to its pilots asking them to resume work by this evening or face sacking. The Delhi HC has refused to stay a management order derecognising their union.
Air India has incurred an approximate loss of Rs. 26.5 crore in the past three days due to the pilots' strike which forced it to cancel at least 280 flights.
The airline, which normally operates 320 flights on a daily basis, cancelled 57 flights on April 27, 96 yesterday and at least 126 today, an official said here.
While Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) leaders said an "ultimatum" was issued by the HR department, company officials said, "We are following the court directions (given yesterday). Through an internal memo, we have asked all pilots whether they can be rostered for duty from 5 PM today."
The development came after a substantial number of around 300 executive pilots joined the 800-odd members of the ICPA, which is spearheading the strike.
In another development, the Delhi High Court refused to stay the Air India management order derecognising the ICPA. Refusing to accede to ICPA's plea to revoke its derecognition, Justice S Murlidhar issued notice to Air India Ltd and sought its response on the plea by the pilots' body by July 16, the next date of hearing.
Justice Geeta Mittal of the high court had on Wednesday asked the pilots to call off their agitation and resume work in "larger public interest." The court had warned that property of ICPA will be attached if they did not return to work immediately.
A S Bhinder, President of the ICPA which is demanding pay parity among other issues, told reporters that the agitators would resume duty only after the management "makes concrete and time-bound commitments on our demands."
These including a higher fixed component in their salary, a CBI probe into alleged mismanagement and removal of CMD Arvind Jadhav holding him solely responsible for the "financial mess".
"We want the management to resolve the issues within a specific time-frame. Besides, all those the sacked or suspended should be taken back, our offices de-sealed and derecognition of ICPA revoked," he said. The management has terminated the services of seven pilots and suspended six others.
Executive pilots also joined the agitation yesterday and started reporting sick, leading the management to send doctors to their homes. Over 100 senior pilots have so far reported sick, according to ICPA sources.
The cash-strapped carrier is losing Rs. four crore per day due to the strike. However, the sources said, this figure might be more as the airline has liabilities towards payment of instalments of new and leased aircraft and the salary of its employees.
With both pilots and management refusing to budge from their stated positions, passengers continued to bear the brunt of the agitation. Most of the flyers have cancelled their tickets on Air India while others were being accommodated in other airlines.