Striking AI pilots will have to reapply for their jobs: Ajit Singh

Ajit SinghAs the unofficial strike by Air India pilots enters its second month today, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh reiterated that almost all the pilots taking en masse sick leave since 6 May would be taken back if they ended their strike.

He however added that if the pilots refuse to accept the Justice Dharmadhikari report on the revamp of the national carrier, there is no point in taking them back.

"Our stand from day one has been that it (the strike) has been declared illegal by the (Delhi) high court; and they haven't even followed basic union rules of giving notice of a strike. I have said in Parliament there will be no victimisation, but they are not willing (to return to duty)," he said.

The striking pilots would now have to reapply through AI advertisements if they want their jobs back, he said.

In what could be read as another veiled threat to the striking pilots, the minister said Air India is planning to hire another 90 pilots over the next six months, for both its international and domestic flights.

The striking pilots, who were with AI before domestic arm Indian Airlines was merged into it in 2007, are protesting the management's decision to let erstwhile IA pilots to train on advanced long-haul aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, and are seeking new pay and career progression norms.