Tuesday, May 3, 2011

High Court slaps contempt notices on 9 striking union leaders

NEW DELHI: Contempt notices were today slapped by the Delhi High Court on nine union leaders of striking Air India pilots as the airline management clamped the 'no work, no pay' rule even as fresh efforts were made to end the week-long crisis.

As the stalemate continued, the management issued directions for not processing the salaries of those who were not joining duty as the airline operated only about 40 flights on the seventh day of the strike, cancelling almost 90 per cent of its 320 daily services.

Keeping open the window for talks, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters later in the day, "Government is willing to settle the issue. ... I hope wisdom will prevail on the pilots".

His statement came after a meeting with AI CMD Arvind Jadhav, Civil Aviation Secretary Nasim Zaidi and top officials to discuss the overall situation following the High Court proceedings. Ravi would meet top Ministry officials tomorrow again to review the situation.

Directions were issued by the management to the airline's accounts department not to process the April salaries of pilots who have not reported back for duty, despite the issuance of an ultimatum that expired last Friday.

But later in the day, the AI management appeared keen to open a channel for talks with the pilots.

Sources said the management could reconsider the termination and suspension orders if the agitators call off their strike immediately. So far, seven pilots have been sacked and six suspended.

For this, the sacked pilots would have to give an undertaking which could be considered favourably by the management which was sending feelers to the pilots so that the issue could be resolved within two weeks.

They said the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee, set up to consider all issues arising out of merger of the two former state-run carriers, was considering the pilots' demand for compensation of 75 'fixed flying hours allowance' along with their 'lay over subsistence allowance'.

After day-long proceedings, the High Court slapped contempt notices to nine office bearers of de-recognised Indian Commercial Pilots Association ( ICPA) for disobeying its order to call off the strike, while deciding to take up the matter again on May 25. It also rapped the management for its adamant attitude and failure to resolve the crisis.

The two-judge bench appointed senior lawyer Siddharth Luthra as amicus curaie to assist the court on legal issues.

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