Desperate steps that Air India needs to take

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Much as one would like to empathise with the striking workers, the logic of reasoning fails to find support with them.
It is easier to preach but difficult to practise when it comes to the only driving force of the middle class: When you don’t get the salary for the month, those who live by the day and especially in these times of inflation and rising summer temperaturesin India, it is difficult to maintain focus.
So what if the company you work for is doing all they can to bail out the national airline and indeed you from falling from grace. So what if the company is faced with the biggest disaster in many years and a humanitarian approach in the aftermath of the Mangalore tragedy is the need of the hour.
It does look a bit childish that the staff went on strike just because of the gag order. In any case, talking to the media has to be only if the management is completely ignoring you. Then if it was agreed to hold fire till May 31, the union members could the least have shown restraint for another week surely. But talking to the media is an easy way to arm twist the authorities because they had no strong case on paper, as the court verdict proved it.
And one isn’t quite sure that all the employees are an over-worked bunch. Maybe the key operational staff like the pilots are understaffed but that is not the isolated problem area. It is the huge and quite unneccessary non-operational staff that is a drain on the ledger books. At any airport in India, the least working staff is the Air India and I guess most travellers will agree that you see 10 staffers loitering around for menial tasks like collecting trolleys which need two men at the most and that too at long intervals; certainly not round the clock type.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sadly the management is also equally to blame for it has refused to address the key problem areas. Overheads from within like the extra fluff among employees and the needless urge to service loss-making sectors are main issues that need to be dealt with a strong hand.
When they applied for a bailout from the government, the one story that nailed Air India’s individual problem, among global factors like slowdown and rising fuel prices, appeared in Hindustan Times last year but wasn’t followed up. It said engineers and support staff took as much as 40 per cent extra on their salaries and bonus just to do tasks like certifying the aircraft airworthy which was there primary task anyways. Worse, accounts showed that incentives were handed out to even those who were not even eligible in the first place.
If you talk about shortage of pilots, they have no reason to complain as they draw nearly 2.5 lakh per month and that is salary alone. The high salaries were warranted in the first place not because they deserved but because of the reason why it is a exhaustive profession ‘currently’ – because there is a shortage of pilots to match the India Shining phase.
Interestingly, as that root cause is being addressed, it is Air India which is resisting cutting pilot salaries the most even as most private operators have already started to address this issue. So Air India staff want to eat their pie and have it too.
Unless somebody cracks the whip on these union leaders, the national airline will continue to be a matter of shame.

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