To ensure that airline pilots and engineers don’t hold passengers to ransom by proceeding on strikes and leaving travelers in the lurch, the aviation ministry has moved a proposal to remove them from the “workmen category”.
Removing their workmen status would mean that pilots and engineers cannot form trade unions or go on strikes.
“The proposal has been sent to the labour and law ministries. This would need the labour ministries’ approval as the Industrial Disputes Act would have to be amended and the definition of workmen would have to be changed to exclude pilots and engineers,” said a senior aviation ministry official.
Among domestic airlines, Air India (AI) has been the worst hit when it comes to employee strikes. Between 2011-2012, AI pilots stuck work four times, the longest being when the airline’s wide-body pilots struck work for 58 days causing the national exchequer a loss of around Rs 300 crore.
“Employees have constantly arm-twisted the AI management. It’s good that the Modi government is finally doing something about it. Moreover, there is no justification for professionals earning Rs 5-10 lakh a month to be treated as workers,” said aviation expert Rajji Rai.
Ministry officials said that once the proposal is cleared, the existing pilot and engineer associations would cease to exist. “Unions will be asked to vacate the office premises allotted to them by the airline and the finance department shall not make further deductions from pilots’ salaries towards union subscriptions,” said an AI official.