AI may hire new pilots if pilots do not end strike: Ajit

New Delhi/Mumbai: Talking tough, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh today told striking Air India pilots that the airline may hire new pilots if they refuse to end their agitation soon. Singh, who agreed to meet a group of protesting pilots for the first time since the strike began 18 days back, also bluntly told them that the mounting losses due to the agitation may make it difficult for the airline to pay the wage arrears to all employees by June as promised.

"We can think of hiring new pilots," he told the pilots if they continue with the strike. His remarks came after a 90-minute meeting with five pilots of the Indian Pilots` Guild which is spearheading the agitation. Air India CMD Rohit Nandan was asked to join the meeting at the fag end. IPG sources said they were holding consultations with legal experts to decide on the future course of action. IPG is insisting on reinstatement of 101 sacked pilots and resolution of issues relating to their career progression.

In Mumbai, the Bombay High Court ticked off the IPG for persisting with the strike by defying court orders, thereby inconveniencing passengers. "You (IPG) may have problems but first comply with the Delhi High Court order. Then you can go sort out your issues. You cannot harass the general public like this," a vacation bench of justices S J Kathawala and P D Kode observed while hearing an IPG petition challenging its derecognition.

During his meeting, Singh reassured the pilots that there would be no victimisation if they resumed duty immediately and their grievances would be considered. "We reiterated the stand of the government that it is an illegal strike. It has caused untold miseries to passengers. Air India has lost much and therefore they should come back to work immediately," he said.

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