Air India pilots, management avert strike threat

New Delhi: Cash strapped, state-owned Air India may have breathed a huge sigh of relief after reaching agreement with the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which allowed the pilots union to withdraw a strike notice. ''They have accepted all our demands and we have taken back the strike notice,'' ICPA general secretary RS Otaal said on Sunday evening after talks with the management.

No details of the agreement were provided.

The ICPA had threatened to strike work from 30 November if the NACIL-run Air India failed to heed a list of demands. The demands were two-fold, one related mainly to salary arrears and the other linked to reduction of incentives, which is part of a cost reduction exercise that involves all levels of employees, including pilots.

The pilots have also been seeking an inquiry into the airline's mode of functioning.

A sore issue has been a management proposal to stop paying Productivity-Linked Incentives (PLI) to its employees, including pilots. PLI forms a substantial chunk of the monthly salaries of employees.

According to industry estimates, the airline's annual PLI payout is about Rs1,500 crore, about half of which is paid to pilots and cabin crew, while the remaining is shared by about 26,000 employees of the airline.

Air India has unsustainable staff strength of 31,500 employees.

The pilots have already struck work for four days in September this year, which resulted in a financial loss to the airline of over Rs100 crore.