Day after strike, Air India seeks to restore normalcy

New Delhi/Mumbai, May 27 (IANS) National carrier Air India was Thursday struggling to restore normal operations after a two-day wildcat strike by 15,000 employees and said it would take another two days for flight schedules to get regular.

An airline spokesperson said 78 schedules – domestic and international – have been slotted Thursday and more will be pressed into service next day to clear the backlog caused by the strike that had stranded thousands of passengers in India and overseas.

‘There were a few cancellations from New Delhi and Kolkata this morning, but as far as Mumbai was concerned, we have been able to operate all our flights as usual,’ an Air India spokesperson told IANS in Mumbai.

‘Two early morning flights to Ahmedabad could also not be operated. But they had minimal load, which was transferred to other flights operating from the international terminal.’

The strike, the airline said, had led to over 100 flight cancellations and a loss of Rs.12 crore (Rs.120 million/$2.5 million) for the carrier, even as 13,000 passengers were inconvenienced.

The strike was finally called off after the Delhi High Court restrained the unions – protesting what they said was a management gag order on them against speaking to the media – from proceeding with their agitation till July 13.

This time around, the Air India management, backed by the government, also sacked at least 15 union leaders for instigating the stir for reasons they said were flimsy and out of context. Services of 17 others were suspended.

‘Whatever action has to be taken, we have to go the whole hog,’ Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav said, hours after the Delhi High Court order, adding that Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had fully backed their stand.

‘We will ensure that such an event is not repeated in future,’ Civil Aviation Secretary M. Madhavan Nambiar added, indicating that the airline may start the process of derecognising some unions.

The unions, however, have decided to take up the matter with Chief Labour Commissioner S.K. Mukhopadhyay, who was mediating on behalf of the two sides and had assured that there would be no victimisation.

The sudden strike had further dented the image of the national carrier that had come under a cloud because of reports of poor safety standards in the light of the Mangalore air crash and overall deterioration in services due to accumulated losses that topped $2.5 billion.