After Pilot Union Threat, Air India Says All Staff To Be Vaccinated By May 31

Air India COVID - aviatorsbuzz
Representational photograph showing COVID vaccines being loaded on an Air India aircraft in Pune. Source: Air India

National carrier Air India on Tuesday said that it will complete the vaccination of all its employees by May-end. The announcement came hours after its pilot body, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) threatened to stop flying if the crew is not vaccinated.

On Tuesday, ICPA had demanded vaccination camps across the country for the flying crew on a priority basis.

In a letter to Air India director for operations R S Sandhu, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICAP) threatened to stop work if the management fails to come up with such camps.

Pilot Union Calls For Help

The pilot body alleged that many crews have been tested positive for Covid-19 and are struggling to get oxygen cylinders. The pilots are left to fend for themselves for hospitalisation, the ICPA added.

The Association also alleged that there is no health care support or insurance to the flying crew. “We are in no position to continue risking the lives of our pilots without vaccination…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,” the ICPA stated in the letter.

Additionally, the ICPA stated that its members continue to be “punished with the harshest and longest-standing pay cuts in the domestic market”.

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.

Stating that the pilots have not even been categorised as front-line workers despite having been at the frontline from Day 1, the association of Air India pilots wrote: “Ironically, we were the first to get a pay cut but are the last to be considered for vaccination”.

“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.

Air India Responds

On Tuesday night Air India in a statement carried by the Times of India said: “Discussions were already on for the vaccination of all airline employees, including the crew. As the guidelines did not allow vaccination of persons below 45 years of age, we could not complete the vaccination. Also after the vaccination dose is taken, two days leave is being given too to employees.”

In a recent news report, the Free Press Journal said that IndiGo in anticipation of rising travel demand on the back of accelerated vaccination programme has initiated the internal inoculation drive. Besides, the company wants to restore confidence in not just the travelling public but also in operational crew members, front office and ground handling staff, the report said.

The Government of India has allowed for a liberalised vaccination phase under which private entities can procure vaccines at market regulated prices. These jabs can then be administered under medical supervision to the company’s staff.

IndiGo Leads the Way

According to IndiGo’s Chief HR Officer Raj Raghavan: “We are fully committed towards the vaccination of our entire workforce, including our subsidiary Agile, as soon as possible. As of today vaccination drives have already commenced aggressively across 35 stations and we are in the process of including more stations.”

Presently, the airline has around 23,000 employees, including employees belonging to its subsidiary Agile, all of whom, it plans to inoculate. It is also providing time off to crew members upon vaccination as per guidelines.

IndiGo - aviatorsbuzz
IndiGo ground staff unloading COVID-19 vaccinations

“We are also sponsoring vaccination for our employees and facilitating it for their families.”

Industry insiders contend that such a move is crucial to speed up the country’s vaccination process and give a fillip to the travel industry.

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