New Delhi: India's civil aviation minister Ajit Singh Monday said that it is for the management of national carrier Air India Ltd to take a call on till when to keep the striking pilots on payroll, as they have not been reporting to work for more than 30 days.
"It is for the Air India management to take action now. These pilots have not come to work for more than 30 days....It is an illegal strike. They have defied the High Court. Now it is up to the management to decide till when they can keep these pilots on their payroll," he said.
Singh comments came after media reports said that Air India is considering taking some tough actions, including sacking about 300 more pilots, as the strike entered the 35th day Monday and showed no signs of being called off.
The carrier is also expected to send termination letters to them within a week, the reports added. So far, the cash-deficit carrier has terminated 101 pilots.
The airline is working on its plan to appoint 100 pilots to replace the terminated ones, The Economic Times reported, citing a senior Air India official.
Over 400 agitating pilots are on strike, protesting the training being imparted to the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots to fly Dreamliner and have demanded exclusivity to operate the aircraft.
The striking pilots of the erstwhile Air India are also demanding security of their seniority and career advancement prospects which they feel will be hampered post the merger of Indian Airlines (domestic) and pre-merged Air India in 2007.
Meanwhile, Singh also expressed unhappiness over the recent hike in service tax on air tickets and high jet fuel price, and said he will discuss the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ask him to take a re-look into the matter.
"Both these issues I will take upI had written to the Finance Minister long time ago, I will write to him again and I will consult him. I will talk to the Prime Minister also," the minister told the Press Trust of India.
Besides, media reports also said that Air India is looking to lease out a few of its Boeing 777 aircraft due to scarcity of pilots. The carrier may begin the leasing out process later next month and will use more fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to save costs.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft are expected to joint its fleet later this month.