Colombo Telegraph

SriLankan Airlines: Flight Attendants Union All Set To Implode

The non representation of the Executive Committee of the Flight Attendants Union of Sri Lankan Airlines in defence of their seventeen cabin crew members said to be terminated, may have been a calculated ploy.

“What subsequently transpired is that the very group supposed to defend their cabin crew cadre has been exposed as those masquerading illegally as union officials since last December”, a union member told Colombo Telegraph on condition of anonymity.

“Factually we are currently legally not being represented as the Executive Committee of the FAU which was summoned to be present at a meeting along with all other airline Union Representatives by the Chairman Ajit Dias, failed to turn up as they were not an elected body” our source revealed.

Other inside sources from within the In Flight Services Department also revealed that the group did not attend the Chairman’s meeting as legally an email is not sufficient means to summon the FAU for a meeting. It is stated that the FAU was playing the silent card and that a letter sent through registered post is the legal means to summon them for any official meeting.

The Jayaratne / Weliamuna report which stayed dormant for over eight months has now being re-ignited and those that fearlessly came out speak on the assurance that they would be protected have now lost faith in speaking in the open. Hence many quotes provided are on condition of anonymity as the national carrier’s employees are also barred from speaking to the media.

The non representation of the seventeen cabin crew said to be axed due to irregular recruitment practices during the previous Rajapaksa regime and also plagued with nepotistic charges, sent shock waves across the rest of the cabin crew union members which is made up of over one thousand flyers.

It has now come to light that only a paltry number of around 40 plus members of the FAU which incidentally was made up of both the incoming and outgoing Executive Committee Members, had turned up last December for the Annual General Meeting. This meeting was held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall to elect office bearers for the new term.

However due to the poor turn out and not having a quorum to proceed with a vote, a group of FAU members bulldozed their way through and ousted the existing Executive Committee and assumed office without being elected.

This no doubt is an illegal act as according to the constitution that governs them, the new group of cabin crew union members do have to be elected first prior to taking over reins.

FAU member and Cabin Manager Adrian Cramer who claimed to be the new President and his team were forewarned of their act by the outgoing President of the FAU Cabin Manager Sidath Dedigama that this was an illegal takeover.

The drama that further unfolded brought about a another twist, as it was also highlighted that the outgoing President of the FAU Sidath Dedigama and his team had also gone on to commit a similar act when they themselves assumed power earlier.

Dedigama and his Executive Committee illegally operated their entire term without being elected themselves when they took over from the last rightfully elected President of the FAU Dinesh Fernando.

“Throwing the cat among the pigeons now is that during the last Rajapaksa regime and during the autocratic rule of the previous Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe, the most lucrative of Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) was signed between the Senior Management of the national carrier and the FAU. However what is further interesting to note is that the former Chairman Wickramasinghe along with the current Head of Human Resources Pradeepa Kekualawala went on to sign this CBA with an illegal team of FAU reps who were never elected according to their own constitution. This in itself was viewed as ‘null and void’ and during that time Kekulawala decided to keep mum about it.” said a member of the previous Executive Committee of the FAU.

“Strangely the current Head of Human Resources Kekulawala who compiled the name list for termination was himself strongly exposed in the Jayaratne / Weliamuna report. Kekulawala is the one who was mainly responsible for facilitating mass scale recruitment of airline staff, when lists of names were sent in especially by former Chairman Wickramasinghe, MP Namal Rajapaksa, Sajin Vaas Gunawardena and current Head of Service Delivery Chanaka Olagama” said an employee from within the Human Resources Department.

The following members of the FAU who took office illegally were President- Adrian Cramer, Secretary – Lanka Kamalgoda and Treasurer- Elseworth Weerasinghe.

Cramer insisted that there was no necessity for a vote to be taken and proceeded to deprive the rest the 1082 union members of their fundamental right to vote for persons of their choice.

When Colombo Telegraph contacted a lawyer to seek his views on this matter, he said “the innocent grieving parties have to now seek relief under the Estoppel Law”

“Perhaps the only way forward for the FAU to proceed is for all its members to work together for the greater good of the airline and its union members” concluded our FAU source.

However the Sri Lankan Airlines Senior Management who over the years have never forsaken their employees are said to view the cases of the seventeen cabin crew members in similar vein, as the rest of the union representatives who attended the meeting insisted that no employees should be terminated in this instance.

There are a number of examples where even those cabin crew with alcoholic or drug related addictive problems have been rehabilitated by the Senior Management of the national carrier in the past.

Currently there is even a manager within the In Flight Services Department itself who did benefit from a similar rehabilitation programme and has been justified by his strong contribution within the department in a specialized field.

The airline at present is also helping another cabin crew member with an alcoholic related problem and is assured of having his job back when fully cured.

“Whilst having this type of support from the Senior Management it is hoped that Chairman Ajit Dias would take into account the completed performance appraisals of these seventeen cabin crew members along with their obligated fulfillment of the Civil Aviation Authority’s requirements and consider in retaining them within the airline. This is as we as cabin crew do not at present have any legal representation from our FAU ” concluded our union source.

However it will be interesting to note as to what stance the airline’s Senior Management will now take due to its employees masquerading as a group of fraudulent impersonators.

In the past cabin crew have been instantly terminated for doctoring passenger in flight credit card payment slips, altering of dates on medical certificates and also terminated those that have stolen hotel property whilst on overseas flight lay overs.

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