2 December, 2023


SriLankan Airlines: CEO Vipula Fails To Provide Basic Covid Facilities For Staff

Despite proving his inability to offer his own employees the basic of facilities, especially to those that contract the Covid 19 virus whilst on flight duty, Vipula Gunatilleke the CEO of SriLankan Airlines has opted to rather get involved in an ugly spat with the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka (ALPGSL) instead of expediting and finding a solution for this important issue.

It has been ten long months now that the CEO Vipula Gunatilleke and his team of other Senior Management officials have been ambling along, unable to find a simple solution for this request made by the ALPGSL on behalf of all employees of the airline.

This is whilst other prominent companies in the country who lay more emphasis on its greatest asset, which is its own staff, have already established quarantine facilities for such use.

However this is not the case when it comes to SriLankan Airlines and how it has dealt in combating this ongoing Covid-19 pandemic..

SriLankan Airlines Pilots and Cabin Crew have always put their lives at risk each time they go on duty, unlike most of its Senior Management, where its profit and loss sheets do not justify their existence and occupying of their posh offices and plush seats that they warm all day.

The pilots and cabin crew of SriLankan Airlines have always put its passengers and airline first and it was no surprise when they opted to even fly into Wuhan in China, to bring back the stranded Sri Lankan students home.

Wuhan was the epicenter in China, where the deadly Covid-19 virus initially broke out of and it was just the beginning of many other repatriation flights that the Pilots and Cabin Crew continued to undertake to operate with diligence and great pride.

However they have not been reciprocated by the airline in a similar manner.

In the meantime and quite noticeably, the Senior Management of SriLankan Airlines had no contingency plan in looking after its own staff, if in the event any of them were to contract the covid-19 virus whilst being on duty.

Their only option was to hand over the infected staff to the Medical Health Authorities and wash their hands off them.

This was evident when a SriLankan Airlines pilot who was detected with the virus recently, was sent to a government controlled quarantine centre in Iranawila.

Taking to social media he posted his heart wrenching experience and also attached some rather unappealing photographs to even look at.

The following are excerpts from his comment, ” I’m in a ward with 15 patients. Patients have to do everything including make tea, clean floors, toilets daily etc. When you enter the main door, they put you in and chain the door from the outside. After that no-one comes into the area except doctors and nurses to treat serious patients. Everything else including food, cleaning, distribution of medicine, checking pressure and sugar for asymptomatic patients is done by the PATIENTS THEMSELVES.
Health wise I’m fine.
This is supposed to be one of the best centers. I can’t imagine how it must be at certain centers where I’ve heard 200 people have to share 3 toilets and things are not organised.”

Meanwhile what appears to have upset CEO Gunatilleke is that the ALPGSL in its correspondence with him had stated that none of its members will operate any flights on their off days, if in the event they are requested to do so.

This stance opted by the ALPGSL was in no way part of an union strike or calling of industrial action, but rather a precaution to mitigate the risk of contracting the deadly covid-19 virus.

“Why should I go on my off day to work and expose myself to this Covid-19 virus, when my airline’s management would do nothing for me? If I am detected with Covid-19 even my poor family members also are subjected to being taken away to some government run quarantine center. I have had nearly 20 nose swabs done up to now and I don’t think even the doctors at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) have had so many swabs done on them each time their duty ends” said a senior pilot of the national carrier.

A pilot and the member of the ALPGSL meanwhile also stated ” What is even more disturbing is that the CEO Vipula Gunatilleke and the company Medical Officer have failed to recognize the urgency of obtaining such a facility and continue to blame the government for such delays.They have failed to see what other corporates have seen as basic and necessary requirements to ensure sustainability in the present pandemic conditions to ensure continued business.The APGSL has been compelled to withdraw some of the extended support, but continues to work as usual, but will not be covering for lapses in rostering and planning, as done in the past by accepting flights on off days or allowing ad-hoc changes.This measure has been taken as a last resort to ensure Sri Lankan Airlines CEO and Company Medical officer see the importance and urgency of this facility and avoid potential dangers to our members and their families.” (By Janaka Ranaweera)

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Latest comments

  • 9

    A statement issued by the “Board” and the “Management” has asked the “Operating Crew” including the pilots to put the country “First” and work and help the Governments’ effort to build the country. The statement also condemns the action of the pilots in refusing to work on “Off” days and call to work on “Stand-by” days. The “Operating Crew” (includes pilots and stewards) claim that they have been asking for dedicated facilities for those tested “Positive” for COVID 19. The answer to that by the “Top Management” is “we have asked the Government and awaiting response”. That “Answer” doesn’t look to be “Responsible” and “Co-operative” to keep the airline running at this critical juncture. To make matters worst are the “Accusations” directed at the relevant staff. The “Operational Crew”, not only the pilots/stewards but the “Ground” handling staff too are the most vulnerable and must be given proper care and protection. The “Top” Management must understand that unlike any other commercial business “Airline” operations (International transportation) must receive the “HIGHEST” safeguards for such staff and without waiting till the Government assistance to come, should have embarked on the provision of such “Dedicated Facilities” at the very initial stages of the pandemic. We saw a “Cluster” been formed in Sri Lankan Catering.

  • 0

    UK is in another lockdown with restricted travel, apart for necessities. Traditional Christmas with family members was not possible, nor was the traditional fireworks display in London on New Year’s eve. However, it seems not so strict in SL, judging from the report by Colombo Telegraph on the fracas at a Kandy hotel involving 2 current politicians who were hosted to a dinner party at the hotel restaurant where there had been hotel guests as well. A friend of mine had also been at ‘small’ dinner party recently where Shavendra Silva had graced the occasion & ‘social distancing’ was not considered important. In this light, I suppose the Management of Sri Lankan Airlines can be excused for not taking precautions seriously, leaving the choice of protection to each individual (just being sarcastic, in case my pun is misunderstood)
    There are no quarantine facilities in UK. If tested positive, it is self isolation at home, unless with symptoms, where hospital treatment is available. Due to the conditions in ‘quarantine camps’ in SL, many who maybe infected are not willing to come forward. An aunt of mine who was feeling poorly with a high temperature & nausea, was reluctant to seek medical attention, fearing that she would be tested positive for the virus.

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