Did pilot strike achieve anything?

(that is, beyond highlighting the systemic rot in AI)


Sweta Ranjan | May 10, 2011

The 10-day strike of Air India finally came to an end on Friday and the maharaja has limped back to normalcy but I disagree with news reports that say that the striking pilots emerged victorious in the overall drama.

I see the whole issue through a different lens. The pilots may have resumed work but the question remains: what did the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), the pilots’ union that gave the strike call, achieve after the prolonged strike, which also affected people’s faith in the national carrier? How did the dramatic strike came to a lackadaisical end even as most of the people believed that the demands of the pilots were legitimate?

Apparently, what they achieved was to make the civil aviation ministry agree to reinstate the terminated/suspended pilots, recognise again the union and ask the Justice Dharmadhikari committee to submit its report by November 2011(formed to study the erstwhile IA pilots’ pay-parity demand). However, these were never the demands of the striking pilots. The biggest issue was pay parity and it was expected that the pilots would at least be given an interim relief till the time committee submitted its report.

If 800 pilots blindly supported the strike call, defied court orders and even were ready to go to jail, what was it that made the ICAP office-bearers succumb and call off the strike without getting anything out of it?

The minutes of the meeting held between erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots and the ministry officials show that the ICPA had agreed to not only call off the strike but also assured the government that there would not be another strike until the committee submits its report.

According to the minutes, the demands basing salaries on fixed hours and a monthly grant of $1,600 (as foreign flying allowance) shall be referred to the committee.

Thus, the pilots have got no interim relief either after the strike. As for the committee, it was on the job even before the strike started.

Sources say that when the ICPA office-bearers briefed the members of the union after the negotiations, the pilots at large were in for a surprise. They raised questions about the negotiators.

As the strike and the negotiations had obviously failed, there was also exchange of heated language among members over the issue. Capt. Berry, a very senior captain of Air India and officer on special duty to AI chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav, was also manhandled at the Delhi Flying Club where the ICPA members had assembled as part of their agitation.

Moreover, it seems the union suffers from amnesia as the issue of alleged corruption in the AI management, a key issue that won them people’s sympathy, was totally forgotten in the negotiations. No committee has been appointed to investigate the matter.

The only thing that the pilots fraternity has been able to achieve after the 10 days of drama (which made thousands of passengers suffer) is highlighting the systemic rot in AI.



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