SriLankan aircraft carrying 50-pct extra crew due to union deal

ECONOMYNEXT – State-run SriLankan Airlines is carrying up to 50 percent extra crew above regulatory requirements on some aircraft types due to a collective agreement with unions, questioning by a parliamentary committee on public enterprises (COPE) had revealed.

SriLankan has a 123 crew member ‘shortage’ due to the collective agreements with staff, Chief Executive Vipula Gunatilleke said.

Legislators asked why SriLankan Airlines had much higher levels of staff per aircraft.

Gunatilleke said one of the reasons was staff hired for ground handling, which was not found in other airlines.

SriLankan will have to re-negotiate collective bargaining agreements (CBA) to cut losses, he said. CBAs had been in place from 2006, COPE was told.

The agreements signed with unions forced the airline to use up to 50 percent more staff than required, officials revealed.

An official said an Airbus A330 only required 8 staff under regulations, but under the collective agreement it carried 12 staff.

Oman Airlines had wet-leased a SriLankan Aircraft and they only used 9 crew, officials said.

If the crew requirement could be brought down to 11 SriLankan can avoid hiring 100 extra staff.

For an A320 aircraft four crew were required by regulation but six were used.

For an A321, six staff was required by seven were carried. 

Crew had an attrition rate of about 7 to 8 a month and staff could be rationalized, officials told COPE.

However if attempts were made to reduce crew, complaints were made to the Department of Labour.

COPE Chairman Sunil Hanuneththi asked whether the Treasury was aware of the agreements and whether the committee should make a recommendation on the matter to the airline.

Treasury Secretary R H S Samaratunga said he recently became aware and had asked the board to keep the Treasury informed of agreements with staff. SriLankan Airlines earlier came under the Civil Aviation Ministry.

Sr Lankan had a staff of 7,474 including 680 ground staff hired through a third party service provider.

About 2,610 staff was used for ground handling for SriLankan and other airlines that flew to Colombo.

Ground handling was a profit centre for SriLankan.

SriLankan Airlines had lost about 230 billion rupees after Emirates was removed as managing shareholder (Colombo/Aug22/2019)