Air India on Tuesday announced that it would vaccinate all its employees, including pilots and cabin crew, by the end of May. The statement came hours after an Air India pilots’ union threatened to stop work if the airline failed to set up vaccination camps for them on priority, reported The Hindu.
“We feel let down by the self-serving approach of the management, which sees no injustice in organising vaccine camps at few bases but excludes pilots,” the Indian Commercial Pilot’s Association wrote. “If Air India fails to set up vaccination camps on a pan-India basis for the flying crew above the age of 18 years on priority, we will stop work.”
The union is comprised of Air India pilots who fly narrow body planes. The letter was addressed to Director Operations of Air India, Captain RS Sandhu.
The union said that several crew members had contracted Covid-19 and were struggling to find oxygen cylinders. “We are left to fend for ourselves for hospitalisation,” the letter added. “The management continues to do what it does best, providing lip service and playing to the gallery by issuing circulars and letters with no outcome.”
The letter also put focus on the fact that the Air India pilots had led the Union government’s “Vande Bharat Mission” for repatriation of Indian citizens stranded abroad. However, they complained that all they received in exchange was a “massive discriminatory pay cut”, reported India Today.
“With no healthcare support to the flying crew, no insurance, and a massive opportunistic pay cut, we are in no position to continue risking the lives of our pilots without vaccination,” the letter read. “Our finances are already spread thin covering our bedridden colleagues and provisioning for families lest we inadvertently infect them with the deadly virus that is an ever-present occupational hazard for us.”
Air India, in a statement on Tuesday evening, said that it was chalking out a schedule to vaccinate all its employees. “Discussions were already on for the vaccination of persons below 45 years of age, Air India could not complete the vaccination,” the statement read, reported The Times of India. “In the last few days Air India has lost valued employees in the second wave of coronavirus.”
It also noted that there was a scheme being implemented that provided Rs 10 lakh as financial aid to the family of pilots who died of Covid-19. On the letter from the pilots union, the airline said it was an internal matter that was being “sorted out within the organisation”.
The airlines had reportedly set up a vaccination camp for its employees over 45 years on April 13, reported ANI.
Earlier, the union had written to the Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri about the Centre’s failure in declaring the pilots as frontline workers.