Talks fail to end Air India pilots' strike

At the meeting, the management remained firm that it would not talk to a derecognised union, while the pilots demanded recognition of the union and de-sealing of offices.

A fresh round of talks between agitating Air India pilots and the management convened by the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) failed on Friday as the strike entered its second day leading to cancellation of around 60 flights including several international ones.

Air India management moved Delhi High Court, seeking contempt proceedings against the striking pilots. The court came down heavily on the pilots for defying its order to resume work.

The airline also terminated the services of executive pilot Capt V K Bhalla for expressing solidarity with the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), taking the total number of sacked cockpit crew to seven.

CLC N K Prasad initiated the second round of talks on Thursday after the first exercise failed on Tuesday following which about 800 pilots, owing allegiance to the ICPA, struck work.

The management had then derecognised ICPA, sealed their offices in Delhi and Mumbai, sacked six pilots and suspended two others.

At the meeting, the management remained firm that it would not talk to a derecognised union, while the pilots demanded restoration of recognition of their union, de-sealing of the union offices and reinstatement of those sacked and suspended.

Representatives of the airline management refused to talk to the pilots, saying their union was not recognised and they had flouted court orders, officials said.

The pilots, on the other hand, insisted that the recognition of their union be restored and all the six sacked pilots be taken back, they said.

Flyers at several airports bore the brunt of the strike with some complaining that they were not informed about the status of their flights and some coming to know about the flight cancellations only after reaching airports.

Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters here that the conciliation proceedings were going on and "a solution can only be reached through conciliation."

Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi has briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the entire issue, he said, adding that a committee had been set up to go into the issue and the government would take a view after it submitted its report.

In Mumbai, Rishabh Kapur, the sacked ICPA General Secretary, demanded a CBI probe into the alleged mismanagement of the airline which, he said, had led to the huge losses suffered by the company after the merger.

He also demanded "ouster" of the management charging it with being responsible for taking measures that led to Air India becoming a loss-making company.

This is the second time a pilots' union has been derecognised by Air India. In 2003, the management had withdrawn recognition to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), after the erstwhile Air India pilots protested and refused to fly to southeast Asia during the SARS outbreak. It got back its recognition in February 2009.