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Pilots challenge Air India’s leave without pay scheme in High Court

New Delhi, July 26, 2020-

The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging Air Indias leave without pay (LWP) scheme and to “challenge the manifest arbitrariness and illegality of the scheme”.

The scheme was circulated on July 14 and the petition states that it “confers disproportionate powers on its Chairman and Managing Director” to pass an order requiring an employee to go a compulsory “leave without pay” for a period of six months or for two years, extendable up to five years.

The role and courage of the IPG along with other flying crew staff have been acknowledged and lauded by the Minister of Civil Aviation himself. However, instead of getting rewarded for risking their lives in service for the nation, Air India imposed a blanket 10 per cent deduction in allowances for all the employees.

“Despite the fact that there are no jobs in the market and it would be impossible for anyone to sustain such a long period without any income, this scheme is a direct attack on the right to life and livelihood of an individual and his/her family. No procedure of hearing or review as been built in this impugned scheme, thus, violating the principles of natural justice,” the petition said, citing its rationale.

The scheme has been challenged as the Air India CMD has been given unfettered powers to send any employee on compulsory LWP for a disproportionate period of six months or for two years and extendable up to 5 years.

No pay, allowances, statutory benefits and career progression would be available during this period. The employee would be required to either vacate the company given housing or pay market notified rent. The employee would be required to clear all loans and advances taken from Air India before being sent on compulsory LWP.

The employee wouldn’t be allowed to take up job in any government office or public sector undertaking and would be required to take prior permission from Air India in case he/she takes up a job in another aviation company, the petition said.

A series of four meetings took place between the pilots’ body and Air India to discuss the austerity measures that can be adopted to keep the airline afloat.

The petitioner body, along with the coordinate pilot body, issued a letter dated July 16 summarising the discussions that took place with the management during the course of the aforesaid meetings.

Immediately after dispatching the above stated letter, the petitioners learnt that the respondent had issued a staff notice, dated July 14, passing a scheme of compulsory leave without pay.  (Agency)

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