The cabin crew members have been terminated from service primarily on grounds of unauthorised absenteeism. Post termination, the airline has 3400 cabin crew, including 800 employees hired on contractual basis.
Under the revised norms, pilots who do not serve the specified notice period or breach bond liabilities will be terminated from service. If they wish to return to the airline, they would have to join at the bottom of the outlined seniority structure and bear expenses of training. The remaining pilots have been sacked on grounds of being found alcohol positive for a second time in pre-flight breath analyser tests and for impacting adversely operations of the airline.
The airline’s management too has resolved that indiscipline will not be tolerated and that it is prepared to face any legal issues that might arise for firing permanent employees.
The drive against absenteeism was, in fact, initiated after the airline in an internal audit last year found that only 2800 of the 3500-odd cabin crew members were available for duty. Consequently the airline framed rules that any employee not reporting to duty for 15 days without authorised reason will be issued a notice. Salaries will be stalled for unauthorised absenteeism of a month. Chargesheets will be issued subsequently and an absence of six months will lead to termination of service.
“We have been making efforts to implement the flight duty time limitations (FDTL) notified by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), but have been facing stiff resistance from certain sections of employees who are refusing to work longer hours. Employees unions are citing bilateral agreements with the management to block implementation of notified norms,” said another senior executive in the airline.
According to the FDTL norms, pilots and cabin crew should work 35 hours a week or 125 hours a month subject to a maximum cap of 1,000 hours a year. However, the average working hours of cabin crew belonging to the erstwhile Air India’s All India Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) operating wide-body aircraft stand at 57 hours a month, while the cabin crew of erstwhile Indian Airlines’ Air Corporation Employees Union (ACEU) work 68 hours a month. ACEU cabin crew largely work on flights operating in the domestic sector and to neighbouring international destinations.
Additionally, the airline’s cabin crew has been refusing to follow the auto roster which has been put in place and is demanding restoration of the bidding system. The second executive informed, “The earlier practice was that cabin crew used to bid for the routes they wish to fly on. To improve productivity, we have now put in place an auto roster which allocates routes to cabin crew 15 days before a scheduled flight. However, despite this roster being in place, cabin crew are swapping routes which is unacceptable.”
For instance, earlier this year four air hostesses did not turn up for a flight scheduled from Delhi to Australia. While one of them reached the airport two hours after the departure time, another air hostess said she would fly only to a nearby place such as Dubai. Air India suspended the air hostess who opted for Dubai while the scheduled flight to Australia was waiting. The airline subsequently issued a notice warning cabin crew that if they don’t reach airports on time to operate flights, penal action would be taken.