Stir ends as 'tough-talking' AI buckles under pilot pressure

About 180 striking pilots of national carrier Air India agreed to resume work immediately from Wednesday, calling off their four-day protest after the management agreed to restore their incentives and flying allowances, which had earlier been cut drastically.

A terse press release from Air India late on Tuesday said, ''Air India will pay productivity linked incentive (PLI) to all section of employees on 7 October 2009. The September salaries of employees have already been paid into their respective bank accounts.''

V K Bhalla, an executive pilot at Air India and spokesman for the protesting pilots, told newspersons in New Delhi that the protest was called off after assurances from the federal government that a decision on reducing productivity-linked incentives, or any other allowance, would be taken only after a panel studies all aspects in consultation with employees.

Even as Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav reassured the pilots that their incentive would be paid, Bhalla said they have decided to withdraw the strike following the assurances given by civil aviation minister Praful Patel. He also thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for intervening in the matter.

''The strike is being called off in view of the assurances by the civil aviation minister that status quo will continue on issues,'' Bhalla said. ''I apologise to the passengers for inconvenience caused due to the agitation, and I am appealing to all the agitating pilots to resume duty.''

Earlier, both the civil aviation ministry and the Air India management had been telling the pilots to resume duty or face strong action. As late as Tuesday, Patel warned the pilots to ''see reason'' by midnight, or the management would ''take steps to protect the airline's interest''.