AI pilots’ union opposes drastic cost-cutting, threatens non-cooperation on domestic flights
The domestic flight services were suspended on March 25 after the government imposed nationwide lockdown restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19 outbreak.Updated: May 23, 2020 18:54 IST
Air India pilots’ unions have alleged that the state-run carrier’s move to resort to drastic cost-cutting measures since March because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak has been a non-starter.
In a letter written to the national carrier’s director (personnel) on Saturday, the unions have threatened non-cooperation on normal domestic flight operations after services resume from Monday. The domestic flight services were suspended on March 25 after the government imposed nationwide lockdown restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19 outbreak.
The unions have also flagged concerns about the extended flight duty time limit (FDTL) due to the pandemic.
The wide-body (Boeing) pilots union, Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), the narrow-body (Airbus) pilots union, Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), have questioned Air India authorities about the measures taken while operating cargo flights during lockdown restrictions to ensure the generation of maximum revenue.
The unions said they have clearly communicated their members’ precarious financial situation well in advance. “Since it has fallen on deaf ears, we’d like to inform you, we may not be in a position to extend FDTL and support for normal operations if the management doesn’t take care of us under the frontline worker category and move forcefully to generate revenue for Air India,” the letter stated.
However, the unions have offered to hold talks with Air India management to sort out all outstanding issues.
The unions pointed out that the airline has allowed 33% of its employees to report to work from Monday and the rest of the staff to work from home with reduced monthly salaries.
The unions have alleged “certain retired employees are still being retained instead of engaging serving employees by further draining the finances of Air India”.
The unions blamed the management for its lack of vision to generate revenue for the national carrier. The unions cited the examples of flight allocations in the third phase of Vande Bharat mission, which will start in mid-June to repatriate stranded Indian nationals from abroad, and also cargo operations during the lockdown restrictions.
“Private carriers are stealing business from right under the management’s noses, while the national carrier struggles to generate revenue. Tribute videos are not enough to feed our families. We’d rather have our basic rights such as wages and service conditions honoured than be showered with empty platitudes and take advantage of under the guise of a national emergency,” the letter added.
The unions have also alleged that the management is yet to make any tangible progress on meaningful austerity measures except drastically slashing salaries of its frontline employees.