Editorial note: the author does not endorse this perspective, he is simply explaining it for the purpose of public understanding. This perspective is not officially endorsed by the ICPA, due to a media gag order.
Last week, the perspective of the IPG on the current Air India strike was posted. This week, the perspective of the ICPA, the erstwhile Indian Airlines union, will be posted.
The IPG feels that ICPA pilots should not be permitted to train on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, because it will significantly and adversely impact their career progression. However, the ICPA pointed out to me that the IPG had actually agreed to allow ICPA pilots to fly on the Dreamliner. I was forwarded a document which contained the minutes of a meeting held on October 08, 2011, signed by IPG captains E Kapadia, J Menon, and Rohan Singh. It states that the IPG would be open to ICPA pilots flying on the 787 provided some conditions were met. These conditions included movement of IPG pilots deputed to fly on Air India Express, and for IPG to be allowed to fly on A320 aircraft which the ICPA currently operates. While the management did not fulfill these conditions, the ICPA does not feel that it is responsible for the management’s shortcomings.
In addition, the ICPA pointed out that the courts have ruled that Air India management is within its rights to allow the ICPA pilots to fly on the 787. They don’t feel that any more justification is necessary, and that the strike is therefore unjustified.
The ICPA also feels that the IPG’s argument that training ICPA pilots on the 787 is more costly and will take longer is overstated.
“I joined Indian Airlines endorsed on the Boeing 737, and many of my seniors are experienced on Boeing aircraft,” an ICPA office bearer said. “The costs of training given by my IPG counterpart are grossly inflated.”
Secondly, they pointed out that the merger was not by their choice. They note that before the merger, they were working for a profitable company which paid salaries on time. That cannot be said about the post-merger Air India. However, they respect that the government owns the company, and therefore has the right to do what it wants with the company. They feel that now that the merger has gone so far, 100% integration will be necessary.
“These are normal HR integration problems,” said a senior ICPA Captain. “We must move forward and get them out of the way so that the company can improve.”
The ICPA feels that maintaining two separate verticals is only a short term solution, unlike the IPG which feels that it is a good permanent solution. The ICPA feels that having a single contract, flight duty limitations, rest period, seniority list, etc. are important to move the company forward.
“We hope to make Air India profitable once again,” said an ICPA office bearer. “Just like everyone else, we are taxpayers too. It is important that we create an airline that every Indian can be proud of, without hurting the bank.”