Ajit Singh to meet leaders of 13 AI unions

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New Delhi: As the stir by over 200 Air India pilots entered the 13th day on Sunday, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said the unions have to look at the health of their organisation and understand that this is an era of competition.

Singh, who is meeting leaders of 13 recognised Air India unions on Monday, said, "It is more for familiarisation 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 organisation".

The minister`s appeal to striking pilots of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) to return to work has gone unheeded. The protestors want sack orders against 71 pilots to be withdrawn and issues relating to career progression addressed immediately. The IPG, which has been derecognised by AI, has not been invited for Monday`s meeting. It will be attended by representatives of the Indian Commercial Pilots association, cabin crew, ground handlers and other employees.

"Government has given money to Air India and fixed a lot of check points and performance standards. They will have to understand what life is about in an era of competition," Singh told PTI on Sunday when asked whether any solution is being worked out to end the deadlock. The national carrier operated a curtailed international schedule, flying seven West-bound flights instead of normal schedule of 16 daily flights, AI sources said.

Singh had appealed to the agitating pilots on Saturday to return to work, saying their demands would be considered. He had also said that the ongoing strike has been declared illegal by the Delhi High Court and keeping in mind the inconvenience caused to thousands of passengers, they should resume duty. He had also assured them that the government will not be vindictive.

The airline has so far lost about Rs 200 crore due to the agitation by over 200 pilots reporting `sick`. IAF medical facilities in various parts of the country, including Bangalore, Delhi and Jorhat, have been beefed up to conduct their full check-up by medical boards after they complete 14 consecutive days of remaining `sick` on Monday.

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