New Delhi: The 58-day protracted strike by Air India Pilots came to an end on Tuesday after the Delhi High Court asked them to join duty within 48 hours and the management to sympathetically consider their grievances. A formal decision on calling off the strike was taken by the managing committee in Mumbai, sources in the Indian Pilots Guild, which is spearheading the agitation, said. The IPG statement came after its counsel, Geeta Luthra, told the court that the striking pilots numbering 434 will join their duties in 48 hours.

"We the pilots of Air India and members of the Indian Pilots Guild, on the intervention of Hon’ble Justice Ms. Reva Khetrapal of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court have started the procedure to resume work," an IPG statement issued after the meeting said.

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It said that as directed by the High Court, the IPG looked forward to negotiations with the AI management on all pending issues in the presence of the Chief Labour Commissioner.

"We sincerely hope that the AI management and the Civil Aviation Ministry will be as sincere on their part. On this understanding, we are commencing the process of restoring normalcy of operations," said IPG General Secretary E A Kapadia.

The IPG statement came after its counsel, Geeta Luthra, told the High Court that the striking pilots numbering 434 will join their duties in 48 hours. During the two-hour-long court proceedings, the judge said the pilots are not "goondas or criminal elements. You consider their grievances after talking to them."

"The senior counsel (Luthra) appearing for the pilots has said that her clients will immediately call off the strike and join their duties in 48 hours, by giving joining reports or the report expressing their willingness to join the duty.

"The AI management shall sympathetically consider the grievances of the pilots including the aspect of reinstatement of those pilots whose services were terminated as a consequence to their strike," Justice Khetrapal said while disposing of the pilots' plea for a direction to the AI management to take back the 101 sacked pilots, including 10 IPG office bearers.

In the late night statement, the IPG thanked the Indian judiciary, especially the Delhi High Court, "for mediating in this issue, which is critical to the survival of Air India and is in the national interest". Earlier, it welcomed the high court's order. "The court has made very positive observations. It has said that all pilots should be taken back and no distinction should be made between those sacked and others. We are happy with the court's observations," IPG joint secretary Tauseef Mukadamn said.

The pilots went on strike on May 7 over demands for better career progression. The airlines management took a tough stand sacking 101 pilots including 10 office bearers of the IPG which was also derecognised.

Justice Khetrapal, who also sought a report from the conciliator by July 9, was hearing an application of the IPG which had alleged that the management has created a "hostile environment" by sacking the striking pilots and also derecognising it.

The court directed the pilots as well as the management to appear before the conciliator, Chief Labour Commissioner N K Prasad, on July 6 at 4.30pm.

Appearing for the management, Bhasin said the court should not entertain the pilots' plea as they are in contempt. He submitted the management is ready to talk to the pilots once they call off their strike.

"They are in complete disobedience of the court's orders for the last two months and they need to call off the strike first before talking to the management regarding their demands.

"Let the counsel for the pilots make a statement before this court that they are ready to call off the strike today. They should not make any pre-condition to call off the strike. First they should obey the court's order and then talk to the management," Bhasin said.

To this submission, the court asked the pilots to call off their strike.

 

(JPN/Agencies)