An Air India flight AI 115 enroute to London from Delhi was delayed by around eight hours today due to non-availability of pilots.
According to government sources, pilots in the national carrier have been going slow on work and calling in sick after Air India issued an order on Thursday removing commanders from workmen category. The airline has 1,400 pilots, of which 650 are commanders. A clear estimate of the number of flights delayed was not available immediately.
Earlier in April this year, the government set the ball rolling on a proposal to remove pilots from the ‘workmen’ category under the Industrial Disputes Act — a move that will take away their rights to go on strikes.
The proposal, approved by civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju Pusapati, was consequently cleared by the labour ministry.
A senior official in the ministry of civil aviation said, “Pilots are highly paid and should not be clubbed with other workmen. Removal of pilots from this category means they cannot go on strikes.”
Currently, employees in the ‘workmen’ category which includes pilots can go on a strike by giving a 15-day prior notice to the management.
The proposal to remove commanders from the ‘workmen’ category was first proposed in 2009 when 650 pilots in Jet Airways disrupted operations for five days.