Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Cockpit games

In an astonishing move, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has issued a diktat that commanding pilots have to serve a one-year notice period before they quit and join another airline. A co-pilot has to serve a six-month notice period, says the aviation regulator.

What’s the logic behind this new rule? Well, the DGCA believes that it takes eight to nine months to train a pilot and their resignations — especially if they are en masse — cause operational disruptions. The question is can a regulator interfere in job contracts between a private airline and its employees? Isn’t it overstepping its jurisdiction? And in a competitive open market, isn’t it the airline’s headache to make sure it fills the vacuum quickly so that flights run smoothly.
Talent shortage, especially the dearth of key talent, is a universal phenomenon. Literally every industry — and critical sectors such as healthcare and emergency services — is grappling with this problem but does that mean binding employees forcibly to their seats? If the employer ensures good working conditions and adequate work-life balance, why would an employee leave or create a stir? “People stay if they are engaged,” points out a private airline’s HR head.

Also, as some pilots point out, if they are forcibly asked to stay on long after they have mentally quit, the danger is they might work without motivation. The notice period is one of the most awkward times in most employees’s lives — you are not trusted with key responsibilities, and you are kept out of meetings, thus worsening the disengagement. Wouldn’t such a pilot ferrying 200-odd passengers be more of a liability?

Aviation has been a pretty turbulent industry in India, and pilots and managements have had a notoriously acrimonious relationship necessitating frequent intervention by the DGCA. For instance, pilots have held airlines to ransom by reporting sick at the very last moment. This happened with Jet Airways last November when its pilots went on the warpath over a new software-based rostering system which they felt was unfair. Flights got disrupted as a result. The show of rebellion prompted the DGCA to consider a drastic new rule whereby pilots reporting sick would have to undergo medical checks to verfiy their claim. According to the DGCA pilots often reported sick during weekends and festivals. Clearly, there is complete lack of trust on the DGCA’s part where pilots are concerned.
23/08/17 Chitra Narayanan/Business Line