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Changing Labor Protest Tactics in India’s Civil Aviation Sector

Employees in India’s airline industry have chosen a novel tactic to protest labor conditions in lieu of the typical strike and social media strategies. Recently technicians of one prominent Indian airline company complained instead directly to aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industries – the key supplier of most of the airline’s fleet –that their employer was not following standard maintenance procedures, risking passenger safety. 

The letter sent to Airbus requested the company ask their employer to share maintenance data of the past few days, as the technicians had been on strike for those days, tacitly conveying occurrence of a possible mishap due to maintenance issues. 

While the airline management predictably denied the allegations as baseless and malicious, Airbus Industries responded that they do not interfere in operations of customers. India’s aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) initially gave a clean chit to the airline saying that they had conducted checks and found things in order. A day after, the airline terminated the services of a few technicians who had participated in the strike. 

A week later, based on defects reported by different airlines during the week, DGCA mentioned that identification of causes reported had been improper, and these maintenance related occurrences were likely because of staff shortages. Airlines have been asked to comply with safety protocols and report back to the regulator.

HRPI View: Aviation sector worldwide is very sensitive and dynamic, with new airlines springing up regularly. Business models in this sector are being reinvented constantly, resulting in inescapable churn of human resource policies. Aviation employees in India are finding new tactics to put their points across, as we have reported in this case. The HR department in this sector needs to be especially business savvy, building and altering staff policies based on external environment. Communication is key, as they should be advising management on salary cuts, restoration, promotions, bonuses etc on the one hand and advising staff on financial situation of the company, on the other.

Published on: August 3, 2022

Authors: Dilpreet Singh, Rohit Dhawan

Topics: India

Dilpreet Singh

Chief Advisor, India, HR Policy Association

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Rohit Dhawan

Resource Manager, HR Policy in India, HR Policy Association

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