There is a Strike in the Air [India]!

Four Hundred pilots of Air India have threatened to go on strike. Here is what the news report says:
“Our chairman Arvind Jadhav has issued a Talibani diktat of cutting our salaries by up to a whopping 70% without any negotiations with us. The 400 executive pilots will go on strike and the 700-800 unionised pilots are also expressing support with us. Our pilots are in no mental state to fly and this has a direct bearing on passenger safety,” senior executive pilot V K Bhalla said. The executive pilots, who are almost all from the erstwhile Indian Airlines that’s now been merged with AI, point out that implementation of the cuts will see their monthly salary drop from about Rs 4 lakh to close to Rs 1.25-1.50 lakh while unionised co-pilots will still be getting close to Rs 2 lakh.”

“We know we can’t strike as we are part of the management. But how can we work in this condition? Let them sack us,” said a senior pilot. The president of the pilots union (Indian Commercial Pilots Association), Shailendra Singh told reporters, “Talks are on both within the pilot community and with the management. We are morally with the executive pilots as their salary cut is very steep.”

Interesting to see that the management is called a terrorist here [‘Talibani diktat’] unlike the Jet Airways pilots [as alleged by its Chairman]! The travellers now see both, managements of airlines and pilots, in that category!!

The Air India pilots are going to meet their Chairman on Wednesday. Any precipitative action before that day will be ‘injurious to the health’ of the Air India which is already a sick establishment with accumulated losses exceeding Rs 7200 crores. Meeting the Chairman on Wednesday and negotiating is a better strategy than going on strike. Two flights are cancelled reportedly due to agitation but I hope that the agitation is not escalated.

What should employees do in a sick establishment where some bitter pills are administered, or have to be swallowed, is a very difficult question to answer. To my mind, the answer lies in very asymmetric response. If you go for a precipitative action, wearing boxing gloves, you play into hands of management which is usually ready with some further tough actions.

Working with some novel protest forms and negotiating to make the best out of the situation is a better idea. The job of a union leader [or the pilots’ leader in the instant case] is the most unenviable job. Not responding to incitements, keeping one’s cool and working one’s way to a better negotiating position is a very difficult manoeuvre for the leader; it is not at all an easy task.
But then who ever said that leading people was easy?