By Marlon Dale Ferreira –
‘No Smiles on Board’ industrial action could take effect any time after tomorrow’
The fourteen day notice period ending today the 7th of December 2014 by the Flight Attendants Union of Sri Lankan Airlines may ignite their threatened Industrial Action of “No Smiles” by wiping away the their smiles on board all flights the airline operates on their entire network. The famous ‘Sri Lankan Smile’ that the airline has been made world famous for, may seize and be wiped away due to their ‘Collective Bargaining Agreement’ which still has not been finalized by the Airline’s Senior Management which includes a clause that would permit Stewardesses to have babies within the first six years of joining and not having to resign.
At present ‘Flight Stewardesses’ are recruited on an initial three year contract, where they are not entitled to the privileges that the permanent staff benefit from. They do have to sign and accept their letters of appointment which states that in the event they get pregnant during this period they have to resign from their jobs. Thereafter once made permanent in their role the new letter of appointment also stipulates that they have to wait another three years prior to being able to reap the joys of motherhood. This totals to a colossal number, of six years even before any ‘Flight Stewardesses’ could even think of doing both the job she loves and also have a family of her own.
In a shocking revelation it has been highlighted that many wedded ‘Flight Stewardesses’ have been terminating their pregnancies during this six year period just to protect their jobs due to economic reasons. On the other hand many of our ‘Princesses in the sky’ have silently handed in their resignations and in a heart wrenching manner quit a job they so dearly loved, simply to start a family of their own.
The ‘Collective Bargaining Agreement’ (CBA) is usually signed between the Senior Management of the Airline and the Flight Attendants Union (FAU) and is conducted once in three years to protect both parties.
However the previous committee of the Flight Attendants Union had brought this issue up and wanted the same privileges of providing ‘Senior Flight Stewardesses’ with having the option of working on ground, seeing their pregnancies through, going on maternity leave and coming back to resume flying, being also extended to those ‘Flight Stewardesses’ who are currently hampered with this traumatic issue.
Ever since May of 2013 the finalization of the CBA which includes this clause has been delayed by the Senior Management of the Airline which in the process has created mental stress and heart ache to the affected ‘Flight Stewardesses’.
Despite the best efforts of Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and CEO Kapila Chandrasena who have elevated the airline to ‘One World’ status and re-fleeting the airline with ultra-modern aircraft, they have viewed this issue from a rather humane perspective and have been proactively engaged in finding solutions and giving redress in order to maintain industrial harmony.
The Flight Attendants however have an obstacle, in the name of Pradeepa Kekulawala the Head of Human Resources of the airline who continues to drag his feet using various excuses to undermine the happy work force that could otherwise exist.
It is now 18 months that this CBA has been pending with still no end in sight.
Kekulawala when spoken to over the phone confirmed saying “we did sort out this issue at the end of November 2014 and have verbally informed the Flight Attendants Union and it is only a matter of time before it will be officially endorsed. At the moment the issues relating to ‘Flight Stewardesses’ having to resign due to pregnancies has been sorted”.
A member of the Flight Attendants Union (FAU) went on to say “words spoken are just happy stories the Senior Management tell us and nothing been inked as yet. It has been a solid year and a half that the Head of Human Resources has being using every possible tactic to vacillate the entire process of the CBA which has been agreed upon by the Chairman and the CEO. Some quarters in the Union are made to further believe that this tactic to slur the process of signing the CBA could be a motive to undermine the smooth functioning of the department due to Kekulawala’s own political leanings.”
Another member revealed that Kekulawala has even further refined the art of ‘delaying and denying’ whereby confirmation and promotional criteria are also belated by a number of six months at times by his introduced policy which confirms staff in employment only in the calendar months of January and June. Employees end up been deprived of their due confirmation, promotional advancement and the associated gratuity due to this unethical practice which flies contrary to all forms of decent Human Resource Management.
It has also been whispered that Flight Attendants of the of the airline are eagerly anticipating their payment of ‘back pay’ which is long overdue along with their salaries this month before the coming Christmas season. The failure of this happening may warrant the FAU to revisit a situation the airline found itself in the past, when the FAU headed then by Primall De Silva, brought the airline to its knees for a day by grounding all aircraft and crippling the entire operations. This was when the members of the FAU rallied around De Silva and supported him in ensuring that Walter Riggans the Emirates Airline employee under the Middle East’s airline’s reign was evicted from his role as the ‘Head of Service Delivery’ of the airline. The management of Emirates Airline in a smart move offered De Silva a promotion in a grade nine capacity and a job as “Safety Manager” and drew him on to their side. De Silva who was a ‘Flight Purser’ then has now further pursued his career and is currently the airline’s General Manager Sri Lankan Aviation College.