Labour Commissioner Slams Tatas, Accuses Air India Express Of Mismanagement

The Regional Labour Commissioner had written to Air India express and, in no uncertain terms, told them that the employees' grievances were genuine and that the HR department had made an attempt to mislead the conciliation officer.

May 8, 2024 - 19:30
Labour Commissioner Slams Tatas, Accuses Air India Express Of Mismanagement

Nearly a week before the dispute between a section of Air India Express employees and the management boiled over, leading to the cancellation of over 90 flights since Tuesday night, the Regional Labour Commissioner had written to the airline and - in no uncertain terms - told them the grievances were genuine and that the HR department had made an attempt to mislead the conciliation officer. 

Since Tuesday night, 300 senior cabin crew members of Air India Express reported sick at the last minute and switched off their cellphones, leading to over 90 flights being cancelled and many passengers being left stranded. The Air India Express Employees Union (AIXEU) also wrote to the management and "highlighted a stark departure from commitments". The TATA group had taken over the government-run airline in January 2022.

Sources from Air India Express told NDTV that it does not recognise AIXEU or any other workers' union as legitimate. 

READOver 90 Air India Express Flights Cancelled As Crew Goes On "Mass Sick Leave"

In a May 3 e-mail to Air India Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran and others - a copy of which is with NDTV - the Regional Labour Commissioner in New Delhi, Ashok Perumalla, pointed to "blatant violations of labour laws".

Stating that the concerns of the Union are genuine, Mr Perumulla wrote, "The management of Air India Express has not sent any responsible decision-makers to any of the conciliation proceedings. Mismanagement and blatant violations of labour laws were apparent."

READ | "Growing Unrest, Dissatisfaction": Air India Express Employees To Airline

Mincing no words, the official continued, "The HR department tried to mislead the conciliation officer with the wrong information and an idiotic interpretation of legal provisions."

For maintaining "harmonious industrial relations", Mr Perumulla suggested the constitution of a high-level committee to examine the grievances of the employees and the functioning of the HR department. He also called for corrective measures to be taken.

The current dispute stems from a new merit-based assessment system for employees. The AIXEU has also accused the airline of mismanagement and a lack of equality in staff treatment.

Air India's Stand

Sources at Air India Express said the airline does not recognise any workers' union and that attempts are being made to speak to the protesting crew members and break the deadlock. 

READAir India Express Doesn't Recognise Workers Union Amid Protests: Sources

A spokesperson from the airline said, "A section of our cabin crew has reported sick at the last minute, starting last night, resulting in flight delays and cancellations. While we are engaging with the crew to understand the reasons behind these occurrences, our teams are actively addressing this issue to minimise any inconvenience caused to our guests as a result." 

"We sincerely apologise to our guests for this unexpected disruption and emphasise that this situation does not reflect the standard of service we strive to provide. Guests impacted by cancellations will be offered a full refund or complimentary rescheduling to another date," the spokesperson added. 

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