(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 11, 2009
is Responsible for Air
M K Pandhe
THE five day strike of 400 executive pilots of Air India, which commenced on September 26, could well have been avoided it only the Air India management had not arbitrarily and unilaterally reduced their productivity linked incentive (PLI) which was earlier decided by an agreement with the executive pilots. The 20 to 50 per cent cut imposed on their PLI payments had to be ultimately kept in abeyance by the Air India management, which was the cause of the strike action by the pilots.
The executive pilots, as usual, reported sick so as to protest against the unilateral decision of the Air India management. This affected all the Air India operations and hundreds of flights had to be cancelled due to non-availability of the executive pilots.
The Air Indiaís losses mounted from six to seven thousand crores --- not because of any fault of the employees but due to several wrong decisions taken by the management and the ministry of civil aviation. The financial bungling by the management could be seen from the fact the balance sheet of the National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) for the year 2008-09 could not be finalised till the end of September 2009.
Though the Indian Airlines (IA) and Air India (AI) were running in profit prior to the merger of two companies, the hasty exercise of merger without making proper preparations has created a chaotic situation for the merged company. Even the wage level of all their employees has not yet become uniform; working conditions also differ for their employees. The company has purchased several new aircraft without allotting proper routes for their operation, thereby keeping a part of the capacity idle. Many profitable routes were withdrawn and handed over to the private sector civil aviation companies at the behest of the ministry of civil aviation. While the Air India management has been talking about surplus manpower, it has outsourced several jobs to contractors, thereby adding to the cost burden of the company. Wasteful expenditure and corruption in this public sector undertaking has been eating into the vitals of the company. Despite several suggestions given by the Air Corporation Employees Union and Aviation Industries Employees Guild, the Air India management refused to discuss the issues with these unions so as to make an attempt to overcome the difficulties in cooperation with 31,000 employees in the company.
The PLI scheme was evolved by the management in the past by withdrawing several concessions available to the workers, and did not put any big financial burden on the company. However, in the name of cost cutting, the Air India management was planning to withdraw the PLI scheme or to cut down the payments under the scheme.
When the Air India management asked the employees to go on a five years leave without wages, it naturally evoked strong reaction among the employees. The management also announced unilaterally the withdrawal of concessions and benefits, which would hit the living conditions of the employees. The salary payments of the employees were arbitrarily delayed.
The callous attitude of the
of civil aviation is evident from the fact that the Air India has had
over two years --- Tulsidas, Raghu Menon, Bharat Bhushan and Arvind
a commercial undertaking can become viable with such chaotic policies
of the overseeing
ministry? Raghu Menon was arbitrarily removed during the election
since he was reported to be opposed to having a tie-up with a
After taking over as CMD of
the Air India, Arvind Jadhav had been blaming the employees for
of the company and advocating a reduction in the manpower as well as
the service conditions of the employees. There were reports that Jadhav
misbehaving even with the senior officers of Air
Instead of settling the
dispute through negotiations, however, the Air India management planned
declare a lockout for two weeks. This was actually a game to help the
sector companies when the market was picking up due to the festive
spokesman of Air
The corporate lobby, which was casting its greedy eyes on the Air India with the desire to grab it, was over-happy to see the attitude of the ministry of civil aviation during the strike. An editorial of The Times of India on September 30, 2009 reflected the same corporate greed in no uncertain terms when it noted:
that leads to the crux of the matter Ė do we need to maintain at great
a public sector carrier to wave the national flag in the strikes? The
government is needed to play in essential sectors that lack private
participants. The aviation sector with its multiple private players and
competition, hardly fits that description. Given this, what is the
Captain V K Bhalla, who was spearheading the executive pilotsí strike, stated that they would be losing up to 70 per cent of their earnings. The Air India CMD was showing a high and mighty attitude which was only provoking other pilots to join the strike. The threat of a lockout did not deter the executive pilots while the other employees too were preparing to join the agitation, opposing the declaration of the lockout.
Throughout the period of the strike, the union labour ministry behaved like a silent spectator and failed to direct the Air India management to withdraw the unilateral cut in PLI payments. It was clearly observed during the pilots; strike in Jet Airways as well as in the Air India that the chief labour commissionerís office was openly siding with the managements.
FOR THE BEST
However, seeing the possibility
of escalating the agitation involving all employees of Air
The whole dispute resulted in
the loss of Rs 150 crore to Air
It is reported that the
management has showed its willingness to discuss with all the