In yet another letter written to Air India’s top management, the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) has now alleged discrimination in administering of COVID-19 vaccines. The body said that Air India is not giving priority to pilots and cabin crew for vaccinations. The letter further mentions that while the ground crew and backend employees are getting vaccines at camps organized by the national air carrier of India, pilots are being excluded from such drives.
The IPCA also says that while Pilots have been bringing stranded Indians home under Vande Bharat Mission, they themselves are struggling to find oxygen cylinders as many of the pilots are suffering from COVID-19. Seeking the restoration of their pre-COVID-19 monthly pay, Air India's pilot body ICPA recently said its members continue to be "punished with the harshest and longest-standing pay cuts in the domestic market".
In the previous letter to Ministry of Civil Aviation, IPCA said that more than 12 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are finding it quite demoralising that even your office has not addressed any of our grievances. Last April, disinvestment-bound Air India had cut its pilots salaries by a massive 55 per cent to deal with the liquidity crunch in the wake of the pandemic. It, however, restored 5 per cent wages from the total reduction last December, still leaving their salaries 50 per cent lower compared to the pre-pandemic times.
"The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the country without mercy. "We have painstakingly apprised you of our plight under the vicious and illegal pay cut instituted by the Air India management (more than a year old now) through numerous representations and meetings," the pilots' union said.
It said the pay cut continues despite its members undertaking the longest, most challenging and most diverse missions under the Vande Bharat scheme. "Now, to compound our woes, this deadlier second wave has gripped the country requiring travel restrictions on Indians worldwide due to the elevated risks of infection." "The number of passengers and crew testing positive for COVID-19 has increased fourfold, and consequently, the rate of infections has shot up drastically for the Air India pilots and also for our family members. "It was already an uphill task to arrange timely medical support like hospital beds and oxygen cylinders for our increasing numbers and now, the situation is becoming chaotic," it said.
Stating that the pilots have not even been categorised as front line workers despite having been at the frontline from Day 1, the letter said: "Ironically, we were the first to get a pay cut but are the last to be considered for vaccination." In the letter, the pilots also voiced their concern over the increasing frequency of the Vande Bharat Mission flights, which has, in turn, increased their workload and the consequent risk of getting "infected/disabled". "If we cannot get the support from management and the ministry that we deserve, the least that can be done is to restore our rightful wages so that if the worst comes to pass, we can provide for our family's immediate medical needs and future well-being," the ICPA said.
With inputs from PTI