Condemn the attempts of the Air India Management to destroy the pilots union!
On June 24, 2012, nearly a hundred pilots —Captains and First officers — of Air India belonging to the Indian Pilot's Guild began an indefinite hunger strike in front of parliament. From June 25, 2012, over three hundred and fifty pilots began indefinite hunger strike in Azad Maidan in Mumbai. The Communist Ghadar Party of India supports the just demands of the pilots of Air India. The Communist Ghadar Party of India condemns the management of Air India and the Civil Aviation Ministry for the all sided attacks it has been launching on the pilots of Air India, which has forced them to take this desperate measure to abandon flying and sit on hunger strike in the terrible heat of Delhi and the pouring rains of Mumbai. The Communist Ghadar Party of India demands that the management of Air India and the Civil Aviation Ministry immediately halt its diabolical anti worker activities and accept the just demands of the pilots.
These four hundred and forty pilots of Air India are members of the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG). This is the Union of the pilots of the erstwhile Air India component of the merged Air India. The pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines component of the merged Air India belong to the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA). As part of its long term plans to liquidate and privatise Air India and Indian Airlines, the Manmohan Singh Government organised the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines in 2007. It deliberately ignored the fact that the wages and service conditions of pilots, cabin crew, engineers, and ground staff etc right up to casual workers were different in these two airlines, and that the merger would not be easy. It did not take the unions of the workmen into confidence at any stage. Five years after the merger, the Dharmadhikari Committee set up in May 2011 following the strike of pilots of Indian Airlines (ICPA) to look into the question of new pay scales and merger of the cadre of the two erstwile airlines, has publicly admitted in its supplementary report released a few days ago that there are in fact two different airlines in the consciousness of the employees at all levels. The measures it proposes to change this situation are nothing but fascist measures to force the workforce of these two different airlines to accept what it declares to be "industry norms". It has proposed, and this is especially valid for pilots and cabin crew, that workers of the two different airlines will be rotated in order to ensure "integration". In other words, in the name of "integration", a number of workers are going to lose their seniority, etc and conditions will be created for them to take "voluntary retirement".
It is known that Pilots of Air India and Indian Airlines have always been in the forefront of struggle not only to defend their rights, but also to defend their institution, the merged Air India, from the privatisation and liquidation plans of the management and government. Every time the pilots of Air India have taken the path of struggle, the government, the management of Air India, and the capitalist media has carried out hostile propaganda against pilots to ridicule their struggle and turn the other working people of Air India as well as outside against them. This time has been no different.
What is it that forced the pilots of the IPG to go on the path of struggle? The experience of five years of post merger of the Indian Airlines and Air India has instilled the fear in the young pilots of Air India who are First Officers that they will be discriminated against in matters of promotion.
The IPG, the union of pilots of erstwhile Air India, has been fighting for parity in terms of time for promotion with the pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines. Between May 3-6, 2012, the IPG and the management of Air India were involved in intense negotiations over the issue. There was a broad agreement reached on May 6, 2012 on the core issue of parity in career promotion. The leaders of the IPG discussed this agreement with the membership of the guild who were agreeable to it. However, the next day, the management negotiating team went back on its commitment. The youthful membership of the Indian Pilots Guild, majority of whom are First Officers in their 20's, angrily declared to their seniors, the eighty Captains and Commanders who were members of the IPG, that they had had enough. They could not see any future in Air India. There was no dignity for them in this organisation. They went on a flash strike on the evening of May 7, 2012.
The government and management had deliberately provoked the pilots of IPG to go on strike, and this is why it had back tracked on its assurances, knowing full well what the response of the militant pilots would be. Within a few hours, the management "derecognised" the IPG, closed down its offices, and began suspending and dismissing pilots. Till now, 101 pilots have been dismissed from service. Since May 7, the management has not talked with the pilots of the IPG..
These pilots have not got their wages since January. They have been demanding leave on time and salary on time, but Air India management has not assured this for years on end now. These youthful First Officers, nearly 360 of them, have taken huge loans of the order of Rs. 40-50 lakhs to get their Flying Degree. The pilots have taken loans for homes, vehicles, etc. Neither are they getting their salaries and allowances on time, nor are they assured the dream career in Air India that they had envisaged, when they invested in Flying as a career. While other employees of Air India got their wages for March recently, the pilots of IPG have not got even these wages, as punishment for taking the path of agitation. No wonder the young pilots of Air India, women and men, are extremely angry at what is nothing but betrayal of their aspirations.
The pilots of the Indian Pilots Guild are extremely united in their struggle, because they believe that their cause is just. This is the reason why they have withstood the massive attacks by the management on their rights and on their union. The Communist Ghadar Party of India demands that the Management of Air India and the Civil Aviation Ministry immediately re-recognise the Union of the Pilots, the Indian Pilots Guild, take back the 101 dismissed pilots, and begin discussions with the IPG over the long standing grievances of the pilots.
The Pilots of Air India have a long experience of struggle. They know that the defence of their right to have a union of their own choice is the foremost task today, and they are determined that they will not go back to work until and unless the management concedes their just demands.