New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) A 58-day long Air India pilots strike neared its end Tuesday as the agitating aviators assured the Delhi High Court that they will call off their stir in the next 48 hours and the government said it would sympathetically consider their grievances.
In the high court, senior advocate Geeta Luthra, cousel for the pilots, told Justice Reva Khetrapal that the pilots would immediately call off the strike and join their duties.
The pilots, however, told IANS that they will call off the strike within 48 hours - around Thursday afternoon.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh responded positively to the development. "The high court direction on the strike has endorsed the views of the government that the pilots should call off the strike unconditionally and report back to duty. The government is committed to the welfare of the employees of Air India, including pilots," said Singh.
The strike, which caused Air India revenue loss of over Rs.615 crore and stranded thousands of passengers to East Asia and Middle East, is the second longest in the country's aviation history.
The aviators are demanding the reinstatement of their 101 sacked colleagues and recognition of their union - Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG). These issues will be considered by the chief labour commissioner (CLC), the pilots said.
The pilots' decision to end the strike came after the Air India management assured the court that it would "sympathetically" consider their grievances.
"Serious effort has been made by this court to settle the dispute. Counsel for both the parties have assured this court that they will be extending full cooperation in this regard to their respective clients," Justice Khetrapal said while disposing of the plea of the striking pilots.
"The Air India management shall sympathetically consider the grievances of pilots, including the aspects of reinstatement of those pilots whose service has been terminated consequent to this strike," the judge said.
The striking pilots will have to give joining reports and terminated pilots will have to give "willingness to join duty" report to the Air India management and the court within 48 hours.
The court also told the pilots and Air India management to appear before conciliating officer and CLC N.K. Prasad July 6 at 4.30 p.m.
The court posted the matter for July 9 when the conciliating officer will submit a report.
"All pilots belonging to the IPG will give an affidavit to the court stating their willingness to join back duties. The CLC will conduct a meeting between us and the Air India management to sort out our issues. We are confident that a resolution will be found soon," Rohit Kapahi, committee member of the IPG, told IANS.
After they call off their strike, the aviators would first have to get their fitness checked by a team of doctors and only after that they will they be allowed to go through a mandatory route flying check.
In the route flying check, the pilots, who have not flown an aircraft over a period of 30 days, will operate a flight with a check (instructor) pilot who will oversee their performance. After the process, the pilots resuming duty will be assigned a flying schedule.
The strike started May 8 when pilot members of the IPG went on a mass sick leave, protesting the move to provide Boeing 787 Dreamliner training to their colleagues and pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
During the strike, the grounded fleet of Boeing 777s, unused manpower and absence from key routes hit the airlines' chances of a financial turnaround. The strike also crippled Air India's international operations.
The striking pilots had started an indefinite hunger strike June 24 here. Five of the 11 fasting pilots were hospitalised.