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Some wiseacre's extra-smart move triggers bad faith among AI employees

By By Rakesh Ranjan- 26 Jan 2022


New Delhi (26.01.2022): As the process of handing over Air India to the Tata Group on January 27 climaxes, some weisenheimer in Air India has introduced new rules to check grooming and measure the body mass index (BMI) of cabin crew members at the airports through grooming assistants or non-medical practitioners.

Was the new rule at all required? What was the urgency to introduce it a week before the completion of the transfer process? Doesn't it amount to a breach of trust?

These simple questions have naturally agitated the cabin crew of the airlines who consider this new process as “dehumanizing and a violation of DGCA rules".

The new rule is also seen in violation of the shareholder purchase agreement between Air India and Tatas. The agreement clearly mandates that all employee service conditions will not only continue in the first year of transfer, but employees will also get an interim relief in respect of their service conditions, benefits, job protection, and so on.

Being on stronger legal ground, the joint action forum of AI unions have urged new CMD Vikram Dev Dutt, a 1993-batch IAS officer of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre, and senior officials that include the executive director of the airline’s inflight services department (ISD) to delete the 'offending clauses' in the order, or else face legal action.

Needless to say a new legal dispute on a service matter is hardly the kind of favor the Tata Group needs before taking over the airline.

“This process of weighing-scale checks at airports dehumanizes and denigrates our cabin crew, apart from violating working conditions,” the letter by the Air India Joint Action Forum of Unions says adding that it was objecting to BMI measures being done by non-medical practitioners.

According to a January 20 internal circular, the new rules mandates “grooming associates” to record BMI management/grooming /uniform turnout of cabin crew when they report for a flight or standby duty. These observations, according to the circular, must be compiled and sent to the requisite authority office. Each cabin crew is required to undergo tests once on a quarterly basis.

In contrast, the extant service conditions provide for BMI checks to be conducted by doctors at Air India clinics. Even DGCA Civil Aviation Rules (CAR) have the same provisions.  Crew members say they have been undergoing BMI checks for over 15 years now. So they are not objecting to BMI checks if these checks continue to be conducted in the “privacy of Air India clinic” and by medical doctors.

In their representation, the unions have pointed out “The Circular no: IFS/HQ-22/115-10 dated 20/1/22 on grooming and BMI Checks by grooming associates at Airport CCMCOs (cabin crew movement control offices) has unilaterally altered the service conditions of the cabin crew to their prejudice and in violation of many rules/laws.”

The representation said “the DGCA as a regulatory authority mandates the conduct of any BMI-medical checks as per the CAR, only by medical practitioners. This conduct of such BMI checks at airports by non-medical “grooming associates” also breaches the CAR, apart from violating settled service conditions & Court orders.”

(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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