AI plans fewer TUs for smooth talks

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai | Updated: Sep 21 2010, 04:03am hrs
Struggling flag carrier Air India, whose restructuring efforts have been hampered due to frequent strikes by trade unions, is working towards framing a new policy in consultation with trade unions to create just a single union in each staff category.

National Aviation Company of India (Nacil) plans to roll out the policy within six months in order to facilitate smoother dialogues between the management and employees on important issues concerning the airline.

The carrier, which has 11 recognised trade unions representing pilots, engineers, officers and non-executive categories, wants to streamline and eliminate duplication of unions within the same category. The carrier has around 31,000 employees across various categories.

The presence of more than one union within a category, in the past, impacted discussions on critical issues. For instance, Indian Pilots Guild has 300 plus Air India pilots as its members, while Indian Commercial Pilots Association has more than 500 pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines. Pilots from both unions have different pay structures, making Nacils work tough on the negotiations front when it comes to framing certain policies. Two unionsthe Air Corporation Employees Union and the All India Aircraft Engineers Association, were derecognised in May after members went on a flash strike to protest a gag order by the management.

Fali Major, an independent director heading the HR committee at AI told FE, Air India is going through a restructuring process. The carrier believes in welfare of its staff and eventually there will be one union in each category which will help employees have a better voice. Another independent director, Amit Mitra, had said unions are co-operative with the AI management and willing to help the carrier in its re-structuring process.

Some unions seemed to be open to discussions on the issue. George Abraham, general secretary, the Aviation Industry Employees Guild, agrees that there should not be too many unions and both parties (management and unions) should discuss issues amicably. At Nacil, unions and the management have differed on issues like wage cuts and rationalisation of manpower. Even last year, the AI management and its unions had a series of meetings to come to a resolution on wage cuts but due to opposition from all quarters, AI could not take a step in that direction. AI wanted to halve the amount of Rs 1,400-crore which it pays to its employees as performance-linked pay in a bid to stem mounting losses. Later in the same year, the management had to face the opposition of its executive pilots, around 400 of them, for planning a pay cut. These pilots went on a four-day strike, disrupting flight movement.

Nacil also lost over Rs 10 crore when 20,000 of its employees belonging to ACEU and AIAEA, accounting for 60% of the staff, went on a strike recently. Later, Nacil, de-recognised these unions stating that the strike was illegal.