New Delhi: With no resolution in sight to the Air India pilots strike, the Civil Aviation Ministry seems ready to crack the whip. Do 300 pilots of the erstwhile Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) stand to loose their jobs? And what would that mean for the airline?
Nearly 440 Air India pilots have been on agitation for over 35 days, of which 101 have been sacked already, and the remaining still refuse to return to work.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has said that the strike is as good as over and they do have a back-up plan if the need arises.
"It is for the Air India management to take action now. These pilots are off duty for more than 30 days. It is an illegal strike, they have defied the High Court. We have requested them to come back to work. Now it is up to the management to decide till when they can keep these pilots on their payroll," he said.
With the remaining pilots still adamant that they won't return to work till all their 101 sacked members are taken back, the ministry is prepared with a back-up plan.
Sources at the Civil Aviation Ministry say that even though they are able to manage 75 per cent of flight operations without the IPG pilots, if the need arises, they are open to the option of shutting down a section of Air India's international operations for three months and then resume flights once the pilots are trained and ready to fly.
Even though the management hasn't yet released any orders of mass sacking, they have put up advertisements to hire new pilots on their official websites.
Agitating pilots say it is impossible for Air India to function without them but the ministry is confident not only of maintaining operations, but also expanding by August.
It is not going to be an easy task recruiting and training 100 new pilots but the national carrier is prepared for the worst.