A large section of Air India pilots would wait till Wednesday to get a consensus on whether to strike work.
The 800-member pilots union had threatened the stir, a week ago against a recent labour ministry notification, which refused to recognise commanders or captains as ‘workmen’, thus taking away their right to strike. The amendment in the work rules also meant that the senior pilots who are few in numbers could not form a union and disrupt flight operations.
While Sunday was the last day for voting, the counting would take another three days, said sources in the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), the only recognised pilots’ union in the airline.
If the strike takes place, thousands of AI fliers could be stranded at airports across the country. Members of the union handle the airline’s Airbus operations that cater to about 17% domestic fliers in the country. It also operates flights on several busy short haul international routes connecting Indian metro cities to travel hubs such as Dubai and Bangkok. “We will take a call on the strike depending on the voting results,” said a senior ICPA member requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile alternative channels of communications are also been active between the union and the airline management. A few days ago, the union wrote to AI’s newly appointed chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani seeking a meeting. In the note (a copy of which is available with HT) informed Lohani about the ongoing secret ballot and sought an ‘emergency meeting’ to discuss labour issues.
A couple of days earlier than that it wrote to the airline’s executive director (personnel and industrial relations) threatening a legal recourse unless the labour ministry notification was rolled back. The AI spokesperson refused to comment on the pilots’ unions secret ballot.
Among domestic airlines, AI has been the worst hit when it comes to striking employees. Between 2011 and 2012, its pilots struck from work four times. The last pilots’ agitation in AI conducted by the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) a derecognised union now took place in early 2012, which grounded flight operations for 58 days - causing the national exchequer a loss of around Rs 300 crores.