Unions representing Air India employees have promised to lodge a challenge to Air India’s social media policy, which prohibits all employees–even retired ones–from posting any critical information or opinion on social media that may reflect poorly against Air India.
Air India Faces Employee Pushback Over Social Media Ban
Air India has introduced a social media policy which calls upon employees to desist from posting any personal views “contradicting” the company’s message or “on policy matters related to the aviation sector.”
NDTV reports that the Air India-Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) wrote to the Air India Chairman on Thursday to protest enforcement of this policy:
“At the outset, we note with alarm that such a Policy introduced by Air India is entirely illegal and with no basis in law whatsoever. By way of the Policy, Air India has effectively imposed a blanket ban or prohibition on the use of social or digital media by all its employees, including those that have superannuated.”
The ban applies whether employees are on duty or off-duty and whether they are using company-issued devices or their own devices. It even applies to retired employees drawing pensions from Air India. According to the pilot’s union, this is not an oversight, but the policy explicitly includes “content uploaded through personal devices.”
Air India employees contend that the policy violates their fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution and does not fall under an exception in Article 19(2) (“in the interests of…public order.”)
Air India is a “state instrumentality” under Article 12 of the Constitution, meaning speech restrictions carry even more heightened scrutiny.
While many Indian news outlets have reported that the new policy represents a total ban on all social media use, the ban is narrower to encompass only issues directly impacting Air India.
I am not sufficiently versed in the Indian constitution to be able to address the legality of the new policy, but Air India’s move to insulate itself from criticism is not without precedent.
Like in every case of an airline trying to control employee behavior on social media, a lack of clear standards leave employees guessing and creates a culture of fear.
Should Air India move forward with this policy and expect to legitimately enforce it, it must make clear what constitutes a contradiction to the company message.
Policies intended to restrict social media use are inherently suspect and Air India is rightfully facing pushback from its employees. Whether or not this new policy is implemented and enforced, Air India workers are wholly reasonable in expecting that standards of proper behavior concerning work-related issues be clearly delineated. As of now, it appears that is not the case.
What are your thoughts on the Air India social media ban?
image: Air India