The body of Indian Commercial Pilots have accused the Air India of gender discrimination against women pilots and written a letter written to Air India Managing Director Rajiv Bansal on Monday. Air India spokesperson has said this is an internal matter and they won’t comment on it.
The letter, reportedly mentions that the Upgradation List either excluded the names or misspelt them in the case of few women pilots who took maternity leaves. Hence they were denied the service benefits like Leave Travel Concession (LTC) and it affected their seniority. The letter comes at a time when the government is considering privatizing the airline. The letter also alleged that such discrimination adversely affects the morale and dignity of the women employees. Further it called on the airline to restore their rightful seniority.
As per Air India policy, women pilots have to be taken off all flight duties when they report their pregnancy to the employer. The woman pilot is then assigned a desk duty with full pay. However it excludes flying allowance, performance incentives and mobile phone allowance. Aviation as an industry has often been blamed to be unfair to women employees.
“It is reiterated that the present actions of Air India amount to a complete unauthorized transgression vis-à-vis the constitutionally protected rights of its female Pilot workforce and are, therefore, unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, and contrary to the judicial pronouncements on this issue,” the Hindustan Times quoted the letter.
“The same is also insulting to a woman pilot and almost makes out pregnancy as if it is a stigma or a negative marker which makes the said woman pilot ‘unfit’ or ‘not qualified or entitled’ to discharge her duties ably, shoulder to shoulder with her male counterparts,” the letter further said.
The letter also cited a Delhi high court verdict saying any form of pregnancy-related discrimination against expecting women professionals is a violation of fundamental rights.
Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (“Act”) protects and governs the service of women employees during maternity leave. Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 ensures that women employees on maternity leave do not have to face any kind of discrimination.