Air India pilots on hunger strike over training spat
Eleven pilots at Air India on Sunday began a hunger strike, it was reported, in the latest development in a row over training for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner.
Management at Air India fired 101 pilots after 440 of them went on strike from May 8 in protest over a move to prioritise pilots from Indian Airlines, which merged with Air India in 2007, for Dreamliner training.
The hunger strikers are demanding that the dismissed pilots, who were all members of the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG), be re-instated in their jobs, according to Indian news service IANS.
"Eleven pilots belonging to IPG are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike from today. Our protest is only for the reinstatement of our sacked colleagues and for the reputation of our union. We want to bring the strike to an end as soon as possible," Rohit Kapahi, committee member of IPG, told IANS.
On June 6, India's Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh called on all striking pilots to resume work, saying that sacked workers would be reinstated on a case-by-case basis.
"We are not waiting for them for ever. We earlier asked them to come back and said that no one will be victimised. We had even given a chance to sacked pilots that they can also come back and we will take them back on a case-to-case basis," the minister told IANS.
The pilots dispute comes at a time when Air India is reportedly haemorrhaging money. According to media reports, the airline has accumulated losses of over INR200bn (US$3.76bn) since its tie-up with Indian Airlines, and has seen repeated employee strikes due to delayed salary payments.
Earlier this year, planes were also grounded after oil companies declined to deliver fuel over non-payment of fees.