Air India tries to avoid another pilots' strike

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Indian flag carrier Air India is trying to avert another strike by its pilots by securing funding from financial institutions to pay salaries and incentives.

The airline's pilots, who went on strike for several days in September, have threatened to stop work again in November if they do not receive their wages and productivity-linked incentives on time. The carrier says that it is trying to find the funds to settle its outstanding debts.

"Air India is in discussion with financial institutions to secure additional funds to meet its current liabilities, including payment towards salary and productivity linked incentive to employees," says the carrier. It adds that the efforts to secure "additional loans may succeed in a couple of days".

September's strike came after Air India announced a cut in productivity-linked incentives that would have affected 7,000 employees. It was one of the various cost-cutting measures announced by the carrier after it made a loss of around 50 billion Indian rupees ($1.1 billion) for the year to 31 March.

The strike was called off only after the government intervened in the dispute and told the pilots that the state-owned carrier will honour its wage agreements.

Air India has been losing money for years, and asked the government for a bail-out earlier in 2009. In October, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said that the state would provide up to 50 billion Indian rupees, conditional on the carrier finding ways to cut costs by 30 billion rupees and raising revenues by 20 billion rupees over the next two years.