Air India is in the news for laying off some pilots with virtually no notice, and then still having them operate flights…
Air India pilots laid off over technicality
In late July Air India announced that it wouldn’t be laying off any employees. The airline instead created a plan by which many employees would receive reduced hours and compensation, but at least no one would be losing their job.
We’re now learning of at least one exception to this among pilots, as reported by India Today. This past Thursday Air India laid off 48 pilots — these are all pilots that had initially resigned last year, but then withdrew their resignation within six months, which is the notice period.
While Air India had at the time accepted the resignation withdrawals, the company has now reversed that decision, and terminated those employees with immediate effect. In the termination letters, the company states that financial constraints due to coronavirus are the reason for the decision.
Air India cites a Supreme Court order from August 2019 in justifying these layoffs:
“The court while examining the notice period held that given the nature of pilots’ job requiring long training periods and costs would fall in the exception and the general law on withdrawal of resignation would not apply to them. In view of the clear and unequivocal dicta of the Apex Court, the earlier acceptance of the withdrawal of resignation by the Company is dehors the law.”
The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) is angry about this decision, stating the following:
“We have only recently written to you bringing to light the bias and excesses of the personnel department towards pilots. The ink is barely dry on that letter and the Personnel Department is once again running amok, breaking all rules and the Law of the land. Yesterday night, around 50 pilots have received illegal termination letters from Personnel Department in blatant violation of Company’s Operation Manual and service rules.
Pilots who tendered their resignations as far back as July 2019 but later withdrew them well within the mandatory 6 months’ notice period have nevertheless been relieved from service suddenly starting from 10 p.m. last night. In fact the timely withdrawal has been acknowledged by the company in the termination letter dated 13.08.2020 which goes on to state ‘the earlier acceptance of the withdrawal of resignation by the company is dehors the law.’ How is this justified?”
Pilots operated flights after being laid off
Air India promised not to lay off any employees, but then backtracked on a technicality. That’s bad enough. What makes this more interesting is that at least some laid off pilots operated flights after being terminated.
The notices issued to pilots ended their employment effective immediately. Despite that, in at least one case an Air India flight was operated by someone who was no longer employed by the company.
After being terminated on Thursday, an Air India pilot still operated a roundtrip Delhi to Bangalore trip (flights AI804 & AI506) on Friday. So yeah, if you’re going to lay off pilots effective immediately, you’d think it would be prudent to clear their schedules.
As far as the pilot who operated the flight goes, I’m not sure if he just loves flying that much, if he was hoping he was going to get paid for the post-employment flight, or what…
Even though Air India promised not to lay off any employees, there are exceptions. 48 pilots who had resigned last year but then withdrew their resignations were just laid off on Thursday, with immediate effect.
However, the airline seemingly didn’t remove some of these pilots from the schedule, as at least one pilot operated a flight from Delhi to Bangalore after his contract with the airline was done.