As a strike by pilots at state-owned Air India enters its seventh day, the Indian government refuses to hold negotiations with the union unless their members get back to work, while the beleaguered company continues to cancel flights and lose millions of dollars.
At least 14 international flights were terminated on Monday from Delhi and Mumbai, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at airports.
An Air India official said the company has already lost at least 1 billion rupees ($18.5 million) since the strike began last week, due to flight cancellations, grounded planes and unused labor costs.
The labor dispute has also wreaked havoc with Air India’s discount international fleet, Air India Express, as well as the domestic carrier, Indian Airlines.
The Air India official said the company has a “contingency plan,” which will take effect within two or three days. That move should restore some international operations, it said.
We are monitoring the situation and informing the passengers in advance, he said.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh condemned the strikers, following a ruling last week by the Delhi High Court, which characterized the strike as ”illegal.”
Whatever issues they have raised for this strike have already been resolved or not possible to do anything,” Singh said.
“By the court order, therefore, this strike is meaningless now.
Singh added: Why would anybody talk to everybody ... There is no point. This is not negotiable. They struck on certain issues, those issues are not there anymore. Let them withdraw [the strike], we will then review what should be done then.”
Among other grievances, the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) has complained that Air India pilots have not received promotions and pay increases, as had been promised earlier by the company. The union is also upset that pilots from the domestic airlines, Indian Airlines, were chosen to train on the new fleet of Boeing Dreamliner 787 jets instead of their own pilots.
IPG also wants to express its concerns directly to senior government officials, without the interference of the Air India management.
Separately, five independent directors of Air India have backed management’s decision to derecognize the IPG union and to fire dozens of pilots.
Meanwhile, Air India is scheduled to receive the first batch of the 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft later this month or next.