As the threat of yet another strike looms large on Air India, the airline management has decided to take on its pilots head-on.
The 800-member Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), an association of erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA) pilots, has threatened to strike work and has called a meeting in Delhi on Thursday to take a final call on issuing a strike notice. This could be the fifth pilot strike in AI in just over a year.
Pilots are demanding that allowances, which constitute the major portion of their salaries, for the last four months be cleared. The AI says it will pay 75% of allowances due till September and has already circulated a timeline for the payment. The remaining allowances would be paid once approval from the Cabinet is obtained.
Taking no chances, the AI management has drawn a contingency plan to deal with an emergency, which involves deploying the five B747 double decker jumbos, reserved for use by the PM and the President, the 12 B777 long haul planes and two A330s, on the domestic sector.
AI’s commercial department has been alerted to be ready to float a wet leasing tender on a short notice. Wet leasing involves leasing of aircraft along with crew. Sources said at least 15 operators have been identified for the purpose. Air force will also be requested to spare pilots.
“We hope better sense prevails but if they try and act smart, we won’t negotiate with them. Thirteen erstwhile AI pilots who struck work in May have still not been taken back,” said an AI official.