Saturday, October 30, 2010

Biman pilots call off strike

In a late night development, pilots of Biman Bangladesh Airlines called off their strike following assurance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
"From now on all the pilots have joined our respective duties on assurance of the premier to look into our demands," Captain Shah Alam told The Daily Star coming out of Gono Bhaban.

Captain MA Basit Mahtab, general secretary of Bangladesh Airline Pilots' Association (BAPA), and Shah Alam went to the residence of the premier on her invitation to talk about the deadlock between the pilots of Biman and its management.

"But the prime minister could not see us as she had family engagement. She sent her Assistant Personal Secretary Saifuzzaman Shikhor with her message," Shah Alam added.

"We placed our demands before him and he assured us that the prime minister would look into our demands seriously," added the senior pilot of Biman.

Following the pilot strike, Biman had cancelled all its flights scheduled for yesterday and today but three flights did take off yesterday under special arrangements with foreign crew flying the planes, sources at Biman's operation department said.

Flights for Sylhet, Kolkata and Jeddah took off yesterday.

Biman cancelled as many as nine flights scheduled for today.

"Thousands of passengers of cancelled flights were either stranded at hotels or at the airports both home and abroad," said a Biman high official wishing not to be named.

Talking to The Daily Star in the afternoon at least five passengers--Jakir Hossain, Rezaul Karim, Shafiqul Islam, Ahad and another passenger wishing not to be named--said some of them will loose their jobs and date of entry for their visas will expire if they fail to reach Dubai and Riyadh on time.

"I have only one day left to reach Dubai…I therefore cancelled my Biman ticket and will fly on Gulf Air to save my job," said Ataur, who was scheduled to fly by Biman today.

The row between pilots and Biman started after the airline increased the retirement age of pilots from 57 to 62 years through an order issued on September 9.

Biman, however, said it would not provide pilots over 57 years with various benefits, including rehabilitation and insurance benefits if a pilot loses his or her wings for medical reasons.

The national flag carrier also said pilots between 57 and 62 would be out of the purview of the existing accord between Biman and BAPA.

But pilots, citing a provision for consulting them in the present agreement, said the pilots over 57 should be covered by the existing contract.

They say Biman acted on its own without talking to the pilots.

In early October, some pilots challenged the Biman decision to increase retirement age at the High Court.

The Biman managing director claimed that pilots went to the court without lodging their complaints with Biman. He hinted that conflict among pilots is causing Biman problems.

On October 22, pilots started protesting by only doing their duty described in the accord between BAPA and Biman and nothing more.

On October 26 they started calling in sick when Biman withdrew four crewmembers from flight duty.

-Daily Star

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