Air India workers call off strike

Air India flight landing in Delhi
Image caption The ailing airline has about 30,000 employees

Air India staff returned to work after a two-day strike that left tens of thousands of passengers stranded after a court declared the stoppage illegal.

An airline spokesman said a number of striking workers had been dismissed and suspended.

The strike was called in protest at an alleged gag on staff speaking about Saturday's air disaster in Mangalore. More than 100 flights were cancelled.

At least 158 people died when the Air India Express Boeing crashed.

Normal operations are expected to resume in two to three days, reports say

On Thursday, Air India sacked 41 employees, taking the number of staffers whose services have been terminated to 58.

It has also suspended 24 others, including 15 engineers.

On Wednesday, the airline de-recognised two unions which led the strike.

Aviation analyst Kapil Kaul said it was the first time in 20 years he had seen union leaders being dismissed.

'Back not broken'

Ground crew and engineers returned to work on Thursday and flights have resumed, Air India said.

The airline applied for an injunction against the strike on the grounds that it was illegal, unjustified and would cause "enormous damage" to its revenues and reputation.

The Delhi high court granted the injunction on Wednesday and directed the striking employees to return to work. The government had called the strike "irresponsible."

The leader of one of the striking unions, Vivek Rao, said they had come to "some understanding" with the Air India management and ended the strike.

"It is not that our back is broken," he added.

Air India chairman Arvind Jadhav said the airline had been forced to take action over the striking employees: "This question is not about the strike.

"The question is about bringing accountability. The question is about discipline."

Unions said the management was banning staff from talking to the media about the crash, a charge the airline denied.

Soon after the accident, some Air India employees alleged that the airline was flouting safety regulations, something the airline also denied.

Union leaders said another aim of the strike was to "protest [against] the delay in payment of salaries and highlight the problems of the cabin crew".

The government had given a $168m (£117m) bailout to the ailing state-run airline and promised $252m (£175m) more.

Analysts say the airline's 30,000-strong workforce needs to be cut by half to make it competitive. Air India has a fleet of 136 aircraft flying to domestic and international destinations.

Investigators are still trying to find out why the Air India Express Boeing-737 crashed at Mangalore airport.

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