NEW DELHI: Labour unrest hit the loss-making Air India again today after a section of its commanders went on a "go slow" protest against a government notification removing airlines' commanders from the workmen category, resulting in delay in its flight operations.
A total of 13 flights - eight from Mumbai and five from Delhi - were delayed by up to two hours till evening due to the protest, which began from early morning, official sources said.
"A section of Air India commanders is observing a go-slow since this morning. As a result of their protest, some 13 flights could not take off or land on scheduled time," a source said.
Of these, eight were from Mumbai while the rest five from New Delhi, the sources said adding the average delay was between 1-2 hours.
Air India, however, said that of the total nearly 300 flights, which are operated by the carrier per day, only three flights were cancelled due to the non-reporting of the commanders.
"Out of the total nearly 300 flights operated so far only three flights were delayed due to non-reporting of crew on time. All our flights are operating smoothly as per schedule," an Air India official said.
The Civil Aviation Ministry had earlier asked the Labour Ministry to remove pilots and engineers from the workmen category to prevent them from going on strike.
In the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, a non-workman is defined as an employee who is mainly in managerial or administrative capacity, or who draws wages exceeding Rs 10,000 per month.
Besides, armed forces and police personnel have also been kept out of the workmen category as they are governed by different laws.
"A clarification has been given by the Ministry of Labour and Employment regarding differentiation on the categories of pilots in Air India, i.e., between a pilot in command and a co-pilot," Air India said in a notification issued yesterday.
"Ministry of Labour and Employment has, after examination, in light of the duties and responsibility of PIC (Pilots-in- Command) in Air India, as referred under rule 141 of Aircraft @1934 and rules made thereafter observed that the duties and responsibilities of PIC are of the managerial and administrative nature which may not fall in the definition of the workman under section 2(s) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947," the notification stated.
The previous UPA government had in 2012 considered the idea after the national carrier was hit by a series of strikes by its pilots and engineers over different issues.
The Labour Ministry had, however, at that time turned down the proposal on certain grounds.
A Parliamentary panel had also, in 2009, suggested that the government lay down a list of "highly paid jobs" which are currently tagged as "workman".
"The Committee is of the view that it would be logical for the government to keep the supervisory staff out of the workmen category irrespective of the wages they are drawing. It urges the government that supervisory staff be clubbed with the managerial and administrative employees.
"... The Committee also urges the Government to lay down a list of highly paid jobs which presently come under the workmen category, as being outside the purview of the laws relating to workmen, workmen like airline pilots are quite capable of negotiating their terms of employment on their own since they hardly take recourse to the Industrial Disputes Act," Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour had suggested in its report.