With no end in sight to the Air India Pilots' Strike that entered its 14th day Monday, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said he would meet union leaders later in the day to resolve the ongoing crisis. The strike has cost the national carrier over Rs. 23 billion.

Singh said that the pilots should have considered the health of their company when they decided to continue with the strike. It is more for familiarization to get to know them. Unions have a very important role to play not only about their demands but they should also look at the whole picture and health of their organization, PTI quoted the Minister as saying.

The Aviation Ministry will meet the office bearers of 13 recognized Air India Unions that represent the pilots, cabin crew, ground handlers and other employees.

However, Air India officials made it clear that the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) was not invited for the meeting as they had been derecognized by the management.

Various issues relating to the disparity in the pay scales and career progression between the Air India employees and the erstwhile Indian Airlines employees, who now are a part of Air India, are expected to be discussed in the meeting.

The difference in promotions and pay scales between the two companies has been at the center of the rift between AI and IA employees, which ignited the ongoing pilots' strike.

However, the Ministry and the management have taken a tough stand on the striking pilots while admitting that there are human resources issues within the staff that need addressing. 
Singh has always maintained that the merger of AI and IA in 2007 did not go as well as planned.

There are several human resources issues unresolved among the pilots of both the sides. There are differences in their salary structures, perks and even promotion schedules. The differences are not just with the pilots; the case is similar for the engineers of both entities, he told the PTI.

Nevertheless, pilots belonging to both the entities have been feuding over disparities ever since the merger.

The Aviation Ministry has asked the striking pilots to resume work, promising an early redress of their grievances. But the IPG is adamant and demands that the management should reinstate all the 71 sacked pilots and revoke its derecognition, as well as addressing HR issues, if the strike is to end.

The strike, declared illegal by the Delhi High court, has rocked the national carrier which has had to halve its international operations and domestic schedules, setting it back some Rs. 23 billion within a fortnight.

The market share of Air India has also dropped to 17 percent. The carrier once enjoyed a market share of 60 percent.