Right before the Independence Day Weekend, Air India issued marching orders to 48 pilots in a move which is being widely criticised in the pilot community.
These Airbus A320 fleet pilots had resigned in July 2019, owing to non-payment of dues, and had then retracted their resignations during their mandatory 6-month notice period. The withdrawal of their resignation was accepted, and everything was back to the usual, till August 13, 2020, when their resignations were accepted again, and their services were terminated with immediate effect.
According to Air India’s Operations Manual, a pilot needs to serve a six-month notice period after their resignation is accepted formally. In this case, even if Air India was going to let them go, they had to give them a six-month notice or pay to make them go away.
First reported by India Today, the termination letters state that Air India stated their financial constraints and the impact of CoVid-19 on the commercial operations of Air India for the decision. The letter states,
The current operations are a small fraction of pre-Covid level and is unlikely to increase in the near foreseeable future. The company is incurring huge net losses and does not have the financial ability to pay.
Not just that, Air India rostered some of these pilots and had them operate flights after terminating their services. A pilot was made to operate AI 804/506 (Delhi – Bangalore – Delhi) on August 14, 2020, a day after he was terminated, apparently unknown of the fact that his services were no longer required by the airline.
This brings up also a worrying question because this flight was not operated by an authorised employee of Air India anymore, so what about all the insurances of the aircraft which would now be invalid?
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association, one of the unions that represents AI pilots, obviously wrote back to Air India asking them to reconsider their decision.
What's happening? Around 50 of our pilots have been terminated overnight unceremoniously without proper procedure being followed. A rude shock for those who served the nation in this pandemic putting the nation first. @airindiain @MoCA_GoI @HardeepSPuri @GuildPilots #notfairai pic.twitter.com/iD2f79LHAx
— Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (@PilotsIndian) August 14, 2020
Not too long ago, Air India had decided to send employees on Leave Without Pay of up to 5 years. Air India had subsequently assured everyone that no employee of Air India would be laid off.
Recent decisions of AirIndia Board regarding rationalization of staff cost were reviewed in a meeting at @MoCA_goi this evening.The meeting reiterated that unlike other carriers which have laid off large number of their employees,no employee of AirIndia will be laid off. (1/3)
— Air India (@airindiain) July 23, 2020
Air India is trying to find creative ways to fire employees after taking a public stance of not letting them go. Not just that, they are still making them operate flights, perhaps unknowingly, without any concern for the safety of the people flying the airline. While they are in their complete right to hire and fire at will, unfortunately, they are treating people as dispensable, while their counterparts in other airlines such as IndiGo are even giving a generous severance package to their employees who they have had to let go.
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