Air India flights resume after strike

May 27, 2010 12:00 am

, MUMBAI, May 27 – Striking Air India ground crew and engineers returned to work on Thursday, the company said, as flights resumed following industrial action that led to more than 100 cancellations after a fatal crash.

The two-day stoppage by some 15,000 workers was called off on Wednesday night after a court ruled that the strike was illegal and the state carrier sacked or suspended nearly 60 people involved.

The stoppage, prompted in part by an alleged gag on staff talking to the media about an Air India Express crash last weekend in which 158 people died, forced the cancellation of more than 100 domestic and international flights.

Air India spokesman K. Swaminathan told AFP in Mumbai that some flights were delayed or cancelled on Thursday, without specifying numbers, but added: "We are trying to get back to normalcy".

His colleague in New Delhi, S. Chandra Kumar, later confirmed media reports that the Air Corporation Employees Union and the All India Aircraft Engineers Association were no longer to be recognised by the airline.

The Press Trust of India news agency quoted an unnamed airline source as saying: "The de-recognition order came in last night and their offices have also been sealed."

Air India later dismissed 42 employees and suspended a further 17, the Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement.

Up to 100 people could be sacked and suspended in total, PTI added.

Aviation minister Praful Patel gave Air India bosses a free hand to break the strike, calling those involved "irresponsible" for walking out so soon after Saturday\’s crash near the southwest port city of Mangalore.

The airline filed for an injunction in the Delhi High Court against the two unions on the grounds that the strike was illegal and unjustified and would cause "enormous damage" to revenues and loss of public reputation.

The court upheld the application and ordered the strike to be called off.

Vivek Rao, from the Air Corporation Employees Union, confirmed that the strike was over and that they had "come to an understanding" with Air India, without elaborating.

Air India has denied trying to gag its staff but the strike is the latest dispute between management and employees at the ailing company, which is battling heavy losses and falling market share in the domestic aviation sector.

Last September, Air India pilots staged a five-day strike against wage cuts, leading to the cancellation of 250 flights.

The flag carrier declared a 55.5-billion-rupee (1.16-million-dollar) net loss for the financial year to March 2009 and is expected to report a 54-billion-rupee loss for the 12 months to March 2010.


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