Strikes won't help the pilots

They did it again. On a day when Indian airports were put on high alert after reports of a sabotage attempt by a human bomb, 100 Air India pilots decided to call in sick. According to Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, this disrupted a number of flights, leaving people stranded at airports and prompting the airline to put up others at hotels. Considering their precarious financial position, the management couldn’t have had an easy day.

In May 2011, as many as 1,100 Air India flights were cancelled after nearly half of the national carrier’s 1,600 pilots went on a prolonged strike. The airline responded with an advertisement stating that a majority of the striking pilots drew over Rs 3.88 lakh per month and up to Rs 7 lakh per month, besides other benefits including free passages. Clearly, the advertisement didn’t have much of an impact on anyone.

Yesterday, Air India management eventually responded by derecognising the Indian Pilots Guild and terminating the services of 10 pilots who went on strike. One assumes this meant nothing to people stranded for no fault of their own.

It appears as if unions across the country now believe their demands — be it an increase in salary here or restructuring of duties there — are of more importance than the needs of common citizens. The recent strike by auto-rickshaw drivers, for instance, hurt a lot more than just people travelling to a foreign destination. And yet, rickshaw drivers in Mumbai intend to protest against falling under the purview of the Essential Services Maintenance Act.

To comment on any union demands without understanding where they come from is irrelevant. All we would like to point out is that unions have access to legal means in order to raise their voices. Shutting down services is not the answer. 

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