No Covid vaccine for flying crew, we will stop work: AI pilots to management
The Air India Airbus pilots’ union has warned the management that they will stop work, if the airline fails to set up Covid-19 vaccination camps on a national level for flying crew in the 18-44 age group, on priority.
In a letter written to the director of operations on Tuesday, Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) raised their concern about their flying crew not being vaccinated against Covid-19. Pointing out that many crew members have tested positive for Covid-19, ICPA said the flying crew has been risking its life during this pandemic.
“If Air India fails to set up vaccination camps on a Pan-India basis for the flying crew above the age of 18 years on priority, we will “STOP WORK (sic),” the letter warned.
They said those on desk jobs or could opt for working from home can get vaccinated, but not the flying crew, leaving them vulnerable.
The letter read, ‘It is disheartening to witness the top management make a mockery of pilots discharging their duties in a risky environment. We were hoping that Air India would not let down the crew and their families who stand by the nation during this pandemic. We feel let down by the self-serving approach of the management, which sees no injustice in organising vaccine camps at few bases but excludes pilots.”
ICPA pilots said that it is due to their unwavering support that Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) and relief operations have continued to run smoothly even in the face of a resurgence of even deadlier strains of Covid-19, only to get a discriminatory pay cut in return.
The association said it is not in the position to risk lives of pilots flying without vaccination as there is no healthcare support or insurance, and a “massive opportunistic” pay cut.
“Our finances are already spread thin covering our bedridden colleagues and provisioning for families lest we inadvertently infect them with the deadly virus that is an ever-present occupational hazard for us,” the letter concluded.
In an email response, the airline spokesperson’s said, “Air India is aware of an official communique from one of its unions sent to the Management.This is an entirely internal issue which is meant to be sorted out within the organisation. While we appreciate your keen interest on each and every issue related to Air India, we will not like to make any comment on an issue that, in any case, has no reason to be discussed in the external public domain.”
The airline’s Boeing pilots, Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), were the first to write to the airline management on April 28. They had stated that it was disappointing to see the “inadequate” efforts been made to protect pilots’ well-being.
The IPG letter read, ‘Despite the second wave choking the nation’s medical resources, not a single pilot has refused any flight sighting risk of infection as a reason. Several of our colleagues are being hospitalised at an alarming rate and are in critical need of oxygen...it is in the nature of our duty to be at risk of exposure to the virus. At the very least our company should leave no stone unturned to keep us safe.’
IPG too had warned the management to keep the aircrew on top priority, and that they would have to make decision in the interests of their pilots and their families
The airline however replied to the pilots on April 30, assuring them to conduct the vaccination drive from May 1.
The letter accessed by the paper read, ‘..The Operations Department, in coordination with the Medical Department, will initiate the process of vaccinating all Operations staff. This includes Operations Ground staff, Dispatchers, Crew, both Cockpit and Cabin, above the age of 18 years. The logistics of venues and processes are being worked upon across the country as of now and the same will be communicated as soon as they are finalised..’