Sunday, July 19, 2020

TMC writes to Aviation Minister over Air India's leave without pay initiative

The latest flashpoint between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Centre is the Air India management's decision to allow employees to avail leave without pay (LWP) for a period of 6 months to 2 years, which can be extended to 5 years.

On Sunday, TMC MP Derek O’brien wrote to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri regarding the same. He noted in his letter that this move shows a lack of empathy towards employees who have been selfless in aiding efforts to rescue and ferry passengers during the pandemic, even as 150 employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

 "The scheme is in sharp contrast with earlier advisories directing states to mandate that employers in all industries, shops and establishments must pay their workers without any deduction during the period of the lockdown," says Derek O’brien in the letter.

 The letter further states, "The process of formulating the scheme could not have been more undemocratic. No worker has sought this scheme. No one was involved to advocate, argue or look out for the employee's interest during the formulation. It is a straightforward case of strong arming the underrepresented."

The tone of the letter not only condemns the decision taken by the management, but shows the Air India management in poor light. The company is believed to have not yet paid salaries to employees and, as the letter indicates, now they will almost be coerced to look elsewhere to earn their livelihoods.

 The circular by Air India lists various points for LWP including those who are on probation and will complete their probationary period once they are back after availing the scheme. Other aspects mentioned are that employees will not avail of employee benefits, including gratuity and provident fund and no employee will be given foreign postings for a year after they join back work. "They shall lose their seniority with reference to their juniors who might get promoted to such grade/grades before they re-join duties."

 The notification goes on to state, "Employees who have availed housing loan/advance/company property shall clear their dues before the grant of leave. Employees occupying staff quarters, company flats have to vacate the same prior to proceeding on leave. In case they wish to retain the staff quarters during the leave, they will have to pay the notified market rent."
19/07/20 Prema Rajaram/Free Press Journal
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