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COVID-19: Air India pilots threaten to stop work if airline fails to vaccinate flying crew

ANI | Updated: May 04, 2021 14:50 IST

By Ashoke Raj
New Delhi [India], May 4 (ANI): Captain T Praveen Keerthi, General Secretary of the pilots' union of national carrier Air India, Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), on Tuesday raised an issue with Air India Director Captain R S Sandhu about their guidelines of COVID-19 vaccination drive across India which excludes pilots.
In a letter to the Air India Director, Keerthi threatened to "stop work" if the management fails to set up vaccination camps pan India for the flying crew above age of 18 years.
Keerthi in his letter claimed that the management left their flying crew "vulnerable".
He said, "We feel let down by the self-serving approach of the management, which sees no injustice in organising vaccine camps at few bases but excludes pilots. The employees who are doing desk jobs and the majority opting to work from home are allowed to get vaccinated, leaving the flying crew vulnerable."
"If Air India fails to set up vaccination camps on a Pan India basis for the flying crew above the age of 18 years on priority, we will STOP WORK," he added.
ICPA has around 1,000 pilots in the union.

Alleging that Air India is not working enough in the welfare of its flying crew, Keerthi said, "Many crews have been diagnosed COVID-19 positive and are struggling to get oxygen cylinders. We are left to fend for ourselves for hospitalisation. The management continues to do what it does best, providing lip service and playing to the gallery by issuing circulars and letters with no outcome."
Captain Keerthi also claimed that they have no healthcare support and no insurance and they are in "no position" to continue risking the lives of pilots.
"With no health care support to the flying crew, no insurance, and a massive opportunistic pay cut, we are in no position to continue risking the lives of our pilots without vaccination. Our finances are already spread thin covering our bedridden colleagues and provisioning for families lest we inadvertently infect them with the deadly virus that is an ever-present occupational hazard for us," wrote the pilot.
Air India had set up a mass vaccination camp for its employees aged 45 years or above on priority on April 13.
The move came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a four-day "Tika Utsav" or a vaccination festival that allowed establishments to facilitate vaccination camps at the office premises for employees above the age of 45 years.
Keerthi had earlier written a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri about pay cuts and the authorities failing to recognise pilots as front-line workers.
"Despite operating critical operation flights disregarding certain risks, uncertainty, and in some cases even proper support from the operators, the authorities failed to recognise flight crew as front line workers," he had said. (ANI)