Colombo Telegraph

SriLankan Airlines To Ground Overweight Cabin Crew

Overweight Cabin Crew of SriLankan Airlines is said to be grounded after a medical check up completed by the airline’s appointed Medical Clinic, revealed that their Body Mass Index was over the airline’s permitted standard.

The airline’s management ordered the entire 1300 plus cadre of Cabin Crew to have their body mass index (BMI) measured in February this year. It was then revealed that an alarming number of Cabin Crew who were measured weighed more on the lines of obesity.

Now over 40 Cabin Crew are said to be grounded in this first phase initiated by the airline.

Body Mass Index is made up of the weight against a person’s age, height and gender. The guidelines and measurement used for airlines is usually defined and set in accordance to aviation regulations that recommends an usual Body Mass Index range of 18-25 for men and 18-22 for women to be followed.

Along with the Cabin Crew it was revealed that most of the In Flight Services management and instructors who also fly as checkers on board were found to have had the weighing scales tilted against their favour.

However It is still to be established if the overweight management would now be permitted to take wing on flights in ill fitting uniforms, especially with Manager In Flight Services Rashmore Ferdinands also reported to be seven kilos overweight.

Ever since its inception the national carrier always took great pride in portraying its corporate image to the rest of the world by employing pretty Sri Lankan females to adorn the beautiful peacock mortif uniform saree.

A senior manager of the airline speaking on condition of anonymity as he is not permitted to speak to the media said “The aviation world has now taken note of the health implications that are related to excessive weight and body fat of Cabin Crew members that sometimes borders the lines of obesity. Many have fallen sick and have been out of flying due to long term illnesses. Some with even serious cardiac implications. As the management of the airline we care about our employees and we would wish to create a health conscious culture within our work force. Our intention is to further educate our Cabin Crew on how to maintain a healthy life style especially with the toll their bodies take due to the irregular hours of work and life style patterns they have to follow to do this job. They could lose weight and most certainly resume flying. It is up to them. This is not a punishment in anyway. If they fall sick it also hampers the business operation”.

Commenting on this topic a UK-based rights activist, blogger and comparative politics academic Dr Chaminda Weerawardhana said ” The decision of Sri Lankan Airlines to ground over forty cabin crew, mainly female staff members, on the basis of body weight is extremely controversial, to say the very least. This narrows down to a sexist and a narrowly conceived cultural stereotype – of the lean, smiling and polite sari-clad female flight attendant. It is important to make sure that the rights of these staff members as employees of Sri Lankan airlines are respected, and that an independent (and of course suitably qualified) body (with a substantive gender balance) critically examines the rationale behind the ‘reason’ given to the grounding of so many female staff. Sexism and cultural stereotypes should not form elements of promoting best practice in the national airline, or of promoting the so-called ‘Sri Lankan hospitality’. As a people, we need to collectively wake up to (and tirelessly fight against) prejudices and gender-based discriminatory attitudes that many out there seem to take for granted”.

The grounding of these Cabin Crew comes hot on the heels after six contracted Flight Stewardesses, who had completed their first three years of service, did not have their employment contracts renewed by the airline’s management a few days back. This was as a group of pretentious Flight Attendant Union members led Cabin Manager Adrian Cramer initiated industrial action against the airline.

It is still also unsure though if the airline’s management’s decision in this regard was due to this reason, especially in retaliation towards the Cabin Crew whose ‘work to rule’ industrial strike action is still currently being enforced.

Meanwhile one of the Flight Stewardesses whose employment contract was not renewed speaking to Colombo Telegraph on condition of anonymity as well said ” we are part of over 300 contracted Cabin Crew who are on our first three year contract. It is sad that our dream jobs is being taken away from us for no fault of ours now. Our contracts are not being renewed since the airline is now going to start retrenching Cabin Crew. We were the last to join. So we will be the first to go when these decisions are made. When we contacted Dion Jansz and Elseworth Weerasinghe our seniors in the FAU we were told that there is nothing that they can do and for us to contact the HR Department. When they wanted our signatures they came running to us saying that if we sign, their legitimacy as Executive Committee Members of the FAU could be proved to the management. That was all a hoax just to get us to sign for their selfish reasons. Some of us were even threatened to sign. They were not even elected at the AGM to legally represent us, even though they portrayed it that way to us. They are now reluctant to hold an official ballot which is required by the FAU, if they wish to hold on to power. Perhaps now they know they will lose, thats why they are avoiding an election. We are extremely sad that now there is no one for us in spite of us each paying Rs 1600 as FAU membership fees every month. We were crazy to go against the management. But whats to be done now? We were new, naive and totally misled by a pied piper named Adrian Cramer of the FAU”.

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