At least 10 pilots, out of the newly recruited batch of 38 hired by Air India, are reported to have resigned after the Air India management changed their employment terms from permanent to contractual. According to news sources, some more pilots of the same batch are learnt to have resigned and are currently serving their 6 month notice period.
Newspaper reports indicate that this batch of pilots had been hired from the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy in 2011. At that time, they were promised permanent jobs as first officers on completion of their training, in 2014. However, after joining employment in November 2014, they were informed by the Air India authorities that their jobs would be contractual and they were asked to sign fresh contracts. The Air India authorities have also announced that all future recruitment would be on contractual basis. The trained pilots have made several representations to the government and the Air India authorities, and are extremely agitated at this "breach of trust".
The resignations of these pilots have affected the airline's services at several places, especially in some of the airports in southern India where the bulk of them are currently based.
Pilots employed by Air India on contract get the same salary and perks as the permanent employees, but are not eligible for post-retirement medical benefits and passage facilities that the permanent employees are eligible for.
As has been reported earlier, it has been the deliberate policy of the ruling class to drive Air India into a crisis, as a prelude to its privatisation. One response of the Air India management to the crisis appears to be to cut down on the post retirement expenses of its employees, as seen from the above move.
The abolition of contract labour and permanency of employment is a crucial demand of the working class, for which it has continued to struggle over the years. However, contract labour is on the increase, both in the public sector and the private sector, as the capitalists try every method to keep their profits at a maximum and intensify the exploitation of the workers. By keeping workers on contract, the capitalists can hire and fire them at will and deny them of benefits and security that they would be eligible for, under the existing laws, if they were permanent employees.
MEL supports the just struggle of the newly recruited Air India pilots.