Air India Express crew allege workplace harassment, management assures action

NEW DELHI | Updated: 09 November, 2023 3:33 pm IST

NEW DELHI: Senior cabin crew members of the Tata-owned Air India Express (AIX) have raised serious concerns against the management for violating the company’s code of conduct guidelines while accusing them of mental harassment and abrupt contract downsizing.

The cabin crew union has sent a letter to the Civil Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia which has been accessed exclusively by The New Indian which states that the crew was being scrutinised through an ‘assessment’ exercise. Upon completion of this, their contract was downsized from five years to one whereupon the company would cite rules that “do not exist”, according to the employees. 

Members of the AIX union have approached the Regional Labour Commissioner Office in Delhi against the indifferences and alleged unethical practices by the management. Presently, the Labour Commissioner’s office has sent a notice to the AIX management seeking an explanation following a complaint filed under sections 7(A) and 33(A) that has been violated by the management. 

 

As per the complaint, the management has made the two members of the cabin crew accommodate themselves in a single room in violation of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation rules and a policy that was formulated over 19 years ago. Similarly, the complainant said that the safety of the passenger has also been compromised through these since both members may have varying schedules, which leads to them not being able to access their rooms. This has resulted in the company compromising on the safety of passengers owing to the crew members missing out on the 12 hours uninterrupted sleep mandated by the DGCA.

When an employee decided to take the issue up with the chief Human Relations manager, Anjali Chatterjee, after tendering resignation because of alleged mental harassment, she said that they were replaceable stating that the company is “recruiting 150 amazing cabin crew members”. .

As per the complaint filed by the employees, the contract of four cabin crew members was not recommended for renewal. The letter says that the decision was taken after conducting the assessment programme for contract renewal without fulfilling all the parameters stipulated by the management.

The letter further accused Megha Singhania, a member of the assessment team, of harassment and torture, stating that she had commented about their complexion and their accent, while questioning the ability of female crew members’ “motherhood” who had reported following their maternity leave. 

Meanwhile, AIX management has reacted to the complaints made by the employees. In a reply to The New Indian, Prageesh, a senior member of the management, stated that there are established systems and procedures for the review of employee contracts, however regarding individual contracts, the company cannot comment due to the confidentiality clauses in the contract.

Basil K Paulose, a 29-year-old employee and a physically disabled person who had to resign from the Air-India express spoke exclusively to The New Indian where he said, “They downsized my contract to one year when they renewed it in 2021, when he had to resign in November 2022 since his contract was not renewed, that too without proper reason.” Earlier, he had joined the company for five years in 2016 which was renewed in 2021. 

“In 2021 when I joined work in Air India Express, I was handed over a job where I was not assigned to any job. It is very painful to believe that I am struggling and getting ignored just because now I am a disabled person. The Air India Express management kept silent on my subject and tried not to renew my contract initially, but with the help of the disability commissioner order, I have received a new contract with the post of ‘Assistant operations but even after that I was not assigned a job,” Paulose said. He added that even after continuously requesting for a contract renewal, nothing has been done and he has only faced discrimination and ignorance.

 

Zayn Moideen, a senior cabin crew who had resigned from the company in 2022, spoke exclusively with The New Indian and stated that ever since the transition to the new management little seems to have changed in the management’s approach.

“There is significant distress among the cabin crew. The working conditions are so chaotic. At the moment there is a grave absence of compassion and humanitarian values and we have an incompetent management who have only disregard for the welfare of the employees, particularly of the cabin crew who form the heart and soul of the airline,” Moideen said.

He added, “One of the most critical issues I would like to raise is the usage of uncalibrated machines to check the Body Mass Index checks. This affects the BMI scores of the cabin crew leading to their termination. The early termination of contracts of employees who do not meet the 12 parameters stipulated in the circular is another serious issue.”

Meanwhile, the 1800 plus cabin crew members of the AIX are hoping that a solution to the current issue will be made at the earliest and hence securing the future of the employees.

The government of India transferred 100 per cent shares of Air India to Ratan Tata’s wholly-owned subsidiary Talace Private Limited alongside management control in January, 2022.

Currently, the AIX comprises 2500 employees wherein 1500 are cabin crew. Following the recent takeover of Air Asia by the Air India Express, the total strength is nearly 5500.

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