Air India services return to normal after strike

27 May 2010

Flights by Air India (AI) have returned to normal, at least temporarily, after a strike by maintenance crews was called off.

Indian courts ruled on Wednesday that the strike was illegal, but after AI sacked dozens of staff, unions warned that new action may start from June 12.

More than 100 flights were cancelled and thousands of travellers stranded over the two days of the action. An airline spokesperson said that extra flights had been arranged for Thursday and Friday to clear the backlog in India and overseas. “There were a few cancellations from New Delhi and Kolkata, but as far as Mumbai was concerned, we have been able to operate all our flights as usual,” an Air India spokesperson said on Thursday.

The strike was called in the aftermath of the AI sister airline Air India Express crash at Mangalore Airport on Saturday.

Unions said that AI had gagged union leaders from speaking to the media about safety concern and had breached procedures by using non-AI technicians on emergency AI flights after the crash.

The airline rejected the union claims that there was a gagging order and was backed by the Delhi High Court, which ruled the strike illegal.

However, the airline’s decision on Thursday to de-recognise two of the unions involved and to sack and suspend dozens of staff involved in the dispute may result in further action. Union leaders warned that it violated the agreement to continue negotiations after the strike had been called off.

Air India faces serious financial problems and has been unable to pay sections of its staff at several points over the last year. A large number of job cuts has been predicted. As a result, AI’s industrial relations with staff on the ground and in the air have been strained.

Investigators are still exploring why the Air India Express Boeing-737 crashed at Mangalore airport. The aircraft’s black box has now been found.

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Kenny Coyle

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