India

Minister meets Air India unions

An Air India plane
Image caption The Boeing 787 is at the heart of the latest dispute between Air India's management and pilots

India's aviation minister met the unions from national carrier Air India, where a strike by the pilots has entered its 14th day.

Ajit Singh urged all employees to maintain peace and harmony to ensure the revival of the airline.

Thousands of passengers have been stranded and dozens of flights have been cancelled because of the strike.

The airline has sacked more than 70 pilots over the past few days in a dispute over training.

Mr Singh met representatives of 13 recognised Air India unions at a meeting on Monday.

"Unions have a very important role to play not only about their demands but they should also look at the whole picture and health of their organisation," he was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency before the meeting.

The Indian Pilots Guild union, to which most of the striking pilots belong, was not invited to the meeting, reports said.

"The government has given money to Air India... They will have to understand what life is about in an era of competition," Mr Singh said.

Reports said about 200 pilots have called in sick amid a dispute over training for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes.

The pilots are protesting against the decision to train pilots from Indian Airlines, which merged with Air India in 2007, to fly the new planes.

Air India pilots say that as the planes were ordered before the merger, they should be given priority for training.

A day after the action began, the Delhi High Court ruled that the pilots' strike was "illegal" and ordered them back to work, but many pilots have refused to return to duty.

In a statement on Monday, Air India said that it had terminated the contracts of 30 pilots who had refused to work.

The airline last week said it had stopped taking bookings for US and Europe-bound flights until 15 May.

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