Hundreds of Air India Express employees are likely to go on an indefinite strike from tomorrow as talks with the management did not yield any results. AI Express staff have been protesting for a while now against contract structures and salary cuts, among other demands. Earlier this month, members of the Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) had threatened if talks with the management did not materialize, they could go on a strike on January 15th.
A discussion between AI Express’ management and AIXEU members could not resolve ongoing employee issues. An online meeting was held with assistant labor commissioner Aneish Ravindra, but the management could not meet the demands raised by the union.
Following the discussion, AIXEU president Vijaykumar KK commented,
“The management refused to revise the contract period of the cabin crew. We have not withdrawn our strike notice yet. If the management continues their adamant stand on Friday, the cabin crew of Air India Express across the country will go on an indefinite strike.”
Air India Express is the low-cost subsidiary of Air India, which, unlike its parent company, mostly remains in profits. The airline flies to many popular destinations in the Middle East, and a strike by the union, of which more than 500 are cabin crew, would hamper operations severely.
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What are employees demanding?
The primary issue of the employees, particularly the cabin crew members, is how the revised contracts are being structured. AI Express staff has alleged discrimination from the carrier’s management while issuing new contracts. Vijaykumar KK wrote in his strike notice,
“The actions of the management in reducing the contract period of the cabin crew members of the Company from five years to one year, whilst at the same time according five-year contracts to other departmental staff and new recruits is unjust.”
The letter also pointed out that cabin crew members are already facing salary cuts and shortage of flying hours, and a reduction of employment terms on top of all that is unjust. Some other demands listed by the union include reinstating a former employee with disability and ensuring transparent procedures during recruitment.
As pointed out in a report by The Hindu, the union has raised concerns that the carrier accepted huge sums of money from aspiring job-seekers under the pretext of application money.
Will the Tata Group intervene?
So far, there has been no official statement from the carrier’s soon-to-be owners. But the Tatas are reportedly keeping a close eye on all such developments and have demanded in the past that employee demands be resolved before the formal handover.
As reported by the New Indian Express, one of AI Express’ cabin crew members says that the management assured that contracts would be revised by Tata Sons after the takeover. But so far, the employees have not had any communication from the Tatas.
Around 70% of the union’s members are AI Express’ cabin crew. A strike by so many employees is bound to cause trouble for the airline and disrupt plans of thousands of passengers.