AI strike: The common man victim and the sickness of it all
The treatment meted out to passengers borders on the sadistic. <br /><br /> <br /><br />
Who gives pilots the right to harass air passengers? We will never get the answer, probably there's none. But we will continue to be the slaves to their whims, suffering interminable waits at the airports, missed schedules and crucial appointments gone haywire.
It defies logic why passengers must suffer in the fight between the pilots and the airline managements. The treatment meted out to them certainly borders on the sadistic. The routineness of it is certainly worrisome. Maybe the pilots have genuine demands and the management gives them enough reason to get angry. But why take it out on the innocent passengers?
Trade union rules mandate that there should be advance notice for strikes. In case of the strike of Air India, there was none. Hundred pilots of the Indian Pilots' Guild just called in sick -- a good trick to evade legal action. The timing betrayed the motive. It came soon after their talks with the airline management broke down. More are expected to go 'sick' today.
The result: cancellation of some international flights and the air of uncertainty over others. The worried faces at the airports and the seething, silent anger around tell the story. At least, they could have been warned beforehand. In which case, they would have found ways to avoid the trouble. But that would have killed the impact, wouldn't it. Unless passengers suffer, managements don't wake up.
The IPG pilots, belonging to Air India before its merger with Indian Airlines, are up against the management's decision to train their colleagues from the erstwhile Indian Airlines on flying the Dreamliner plane. They are also unhappy about salaries and other service conditions. These are long-standing demands and should have been taken care of earlier. But Air India has been in the dumps financially and only last month it received a massive Rs 30,000 crore revival package from the government.
It is not in a position to address all the pilots' issues at one go. But that is not the issue here. Why hold the passengers to ransom? In January this year, 52 flights were cancelled after 40 pilots called in sick. In March, they had threatened another stir. Now they go again. There won't be any end to such tactic unless there's tough action.
Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has called the strike inappropriate and illegal. "This is not appropriate. Every section has grievances, they should have some patience... It is not right that the passengers suffer because of the strike," he said. Too soft a statement, one must say. Why cannot he send out a message loud and clear: if you have problems let's sort it out but you cannot make passengers pawns in your fight.
The Air India management has sacked 10 pilots and derecognised their union. A good move but both are likely to be revoked sooner rather than later. Such reluctant action does not help. The management should also be taken to task if it keeps failing to address the problems of the pilots, crew and and other staff. The courts should be final arbiter here but again they must intervene forcefully on behalf of the passengers. If it amounts to activism or overreach it is alright. There cannot be one 'victim' class all the time. It is injustice.
Similar is the case of doctors going on flash strikes, refusing to perform their duty towards patients; and the case of train and auto drivers stopping work without notice. There should be clear, inviolable rules to protect essential services from any blackmailing tactic. Harassing the common man has been going on for too long. There has to be a stop to it.
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