Vaccinate us on priority or we strike: Air India pilots
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), the pilots' union of national carrier Air India, has threatened to "stop work" if the airline management fails to vaccinate its flying crew over 18 years of age on a priority basis. In a statement issued on Tuesday, Captain T Praveen Keerthi, the union's General Secretary, took up the matter with Air India Director Captain RS Sandhu.
The ICPA's statement said that the pilots feel "let down" by the "self-serving" approach of the management, pointing out that pilots have been excluded from the vaccination camps organized at a few bases. "The employees who are doing desk jobs and the majority opting to work from home are allowed to get vaccinated, leaving the flying crew vulnerable," the statement read.
The pilots' union stated that several of its members and their family have tested positive for COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic and are struggling to procure oxygen cylinders. "With no healthcare support to the flying crew, no insurance, we are in no position to continue risking the lives of our pilots. Our finances are already spread thin," the statement further said.
Listing their sole demand, the union said in the statement, "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."
In a letter to the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday, the ICPA had said that its members continue to be "punished with the harshest and longest-standing pay cuts in the domestic market." "More than 12 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we find it quite demoralizing that even your office has not addressed any of our grievances," it said.
Last April, Air India had cut its pilots' salaries by 55% to deal with the liquidity crunch in view of the pandemic. It restored 5% wages from the total reduction last December, still leaving their salaries 50% lower compared to the pre-pandemic times.
Just last Wednesday, around 30 people aboard Air India's Amritsar-Rome flight tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, aviation sources told NDTV on Monday. All 242 people on board, including those who tested positive, have been quarantined in Rome. Those quarantined include ten crew members: two pilots, one of whom tested positive, and eight cabin crew members, one of whom is also positive.