After inconveniencing thousands of passengers for four days and making Air India incur huge losses, the executive pilots who went on mass sick leave are back to work. What action does the management propose to take against them for entering on mass leave? Will they be paid for the four days they struck work?
The right to strike was conceived as the final weapon of the working class to force a recalcitrant management to yield to reasonable demands. But do Air India pilots represent the working class in the true sense of the term? They draw huge salaries and incentives and can by no stretch of imagination be included in the working class. The government should come out with a clear definition of workers covered by the Labour Act. Highly paid employees should be barred from resorting to strike for more wages.
Lakhs of people have been laid off since the global recession started. In such a scenario, a strike by the well-paid Air India pilots, within days of the first by the employees of Jet Airways, was reflective of their utter callousness. The people have lost all sympathy for them.
The salaries of pilots cannot be described as astronomical. Nevertheless, they are on the extremely high side, when compared to many others who play a vital role in running the nation. The pilots might have been justified in protesting the cut in their incentives. But this was the most inopportune time to press their demands.
The four-day strike by some executive pilots is a sad chapter in Air India’s history. The airline, conceived and nurtured by J.R.D. Tata, steadily deteriorated after nationalisation. Mutual trust between the management and the employees, essential for facing the downturn in airline operations, is missing. From media reports, it is evident that the pay structure of the pilots is unscientific. It should be reviewed by a professional body and an effective system put in place to ensure a continuous improvement in productivity, cost reduction, etc.
That the executive pilots of the national carrier went on mass sick leave is condemnable. But what other means of protest could they have resorted to when their pay packs were cut drastically? Blaming the employees for any industrial unrest has become a red herring. Where was the need for the government to purchase 111 new aircraft when recession had already hit the aviation industry? And the move to merge Air India and Indian Airlines did more harm than good.
Syed Sultan Mohiddin,