Air India, Vistara pilots unite to raise concerns over pay, work conditions across Tata group airlines

The National Company Law Tribunal will evaluate the impending merger of Vistara into Air India on Friday

April 04, 2024 08:48 pm | Updated April 05, 2024 07:57 am IST - NEW DELHI

Representational image of a Vistara flight

Representational image of a Vistara flight | Photo Credit: PTI

Two trade unions of Air India pilots joined cause with Vistara’s cockpit crew and said in a letter addressed to Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran that concerns over a revised pay structure and hectic rosters extended to all Tata Group airlines, where crew were being treated as “bonded labour”.

“It is crucial to recognise that the concerns expressed by the Vistara pilots are not isolated incidents but rather indicative of systemic issues that extend across various Tata Group aviation entities,” read a letter from the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) and Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG). The unions urged that the CEOs of Air India, Vistara and Air India Express must have a dialogue with pilots to address their grievances. The ICPA represents the pilots of Air India’s narrowbody fleet, and the IPG of that of the airline’s widebody fleet.

The National Company Law Tribunal will evaluate the impending merger of Vistara into Air India on Friday. This is the final nod awaited for the consolidation of Tata’s two full-service carriers.

The missive comes a day after Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan, following over 150 flight cancellations between March 31 to April 2, held a townhall with its pilots on the same concerns where he extended an apology for mismanagement of rosters and assured them of better work-life balance without backing down on the issue of revised pay contracts announced in mid-February.

The issues reiterated by the two trade unions are cutting down of the 70-hours guaranteed flying allowance to 40 hours, approval of leaves, adequate rest periods, unstable roster, stretching pilots to maximum flight duty, botched roster practices and an unsupportive work environment, including issuing threats to pilots on “potential disruptions to their future”.

The two trade unions said that such an environment impacted safety culture. “Pilots who feel threatened or intimidated may be reluctant to report safety concerns or speak up about issues that could impact flight operations,” the letter added.

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