AI pilots threaten to keep away from duties

New Delhi: Protesting delayed payment of salaries and allowances, a section of Air India pilots on Wednesday warned they would not undertake flying duties from April one if their dues were not cleared by then.

The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), which represents the pilots of pre-merger Air India, has shot off letters to Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge and others saying that a large number of its members had written to it that "financial distress" could "adversely affect" their ability to safely discharge their duties and endanger lives.

Hence, its members "will be unable to operate flights on and after April one, 2012, unless the management clears all the dues", IPG President Jeetendra Awhad said in the letter sent also to Air India CMD, Civil Aviation Secretary and Director General Civil Aviation.

Subtly seeking to distance itself from the proposed agitation, he said "in the interim, we will do our utmost to convince our members to exercise calm and restraint. However, given the financial distress facing them, we are unable to provide any assurances to that effect".

Awhad sought the "urgent intervention" of the two Ministers and others in resolving the issue at the earliest.

The dues comprise basic salaries from December last year till February, Layover Allowance from December to March and Flying Allowance from November to February, the IPG said, adding "this amounts to withholding approximately more than a quarter of the yearly emoluments", causing "tremendous hardship" to its members.

This is the second time this year that Air India pilots are showing signs of unrest over delays in salary payments.