COVID-19: Air India cuts crew wages by 40pc to survive

Pilots oppose, claiming the effective cut is actually 85pc
- A Monitor Desk Report 23 Jul, 2020 | 474 Views|-+
Dhaka: Air India has slashed the salaries of its pilots and cabin crew with retrospective effect from April 1 until further notice, the airline announced recently.

While the cash-strapped carrier said the cut is about 40 per cent, crew members said the amount is much higher, almost 85 per cent.

AI has a monthly wage bill of RS 230 crore. However, the airline did not disclose how much it expects to save from the pay cuts.

"As per the directions of the aviation ministry and approval of the Board of Directors of AI, it has been decided to rationalise the allowances of employees," said an office order issued by Meenakshi Kashyap, General Manager, Industrial Relations, Air India.

Employees with gross monthly salary of RS 25,000 have been spared any pay cut. For pilots, the order mentioned 11 allowances - that comprise majority of the total pay - such as flying allowance, special pay, widebody allowance, check allowance and instructor/examiner allowance have been cut by 40 per cent.

"Flying allowance to be paid on actual hours flown by an individual pilot in a month. However, as a special case, all pilots available for flying will be paid fixed 20 hours of flying allowance or actuals, whichever is higher in a month, during Q1 and Q2 of financial year 2020-21 on revised flying allowance rate," read the order.

For cabin crew, the order said check, standby, flying, widebody, domestic layover and quick return allowances will be deducted by 20 per cent and the same will be paid on actual flying hours.

The Executive pilots of AI have written to the airline Chairman Rajiv Bansal opposing the pay cuts.

"Retrospective action of denying an employee of up to 85 per cent of his/her rightfully earned wages for work already done, which in any case are long overdue. The hourly rate is reduced by 50 per cent and the assured hours reduced from 70 to 20 hours, ie, 70 per cent. The two combined, amount to an 85 per cent reduction in our current wages. This is for missions flown, which were critical for the nation. On what basis can such gross injustice be explained?" the letter read.

It further read, "During the early months (March, April and May 2020) of the pandemic in India, while the country dealt with a nationwide lockdown and most citizens remained safely indoors with their families, we ventured forth to do our bounden duty. We flew to the farthest corners of a world gripped by the deadly and largely unknown virus for the purpose of repatriating, not only our citizens, but citizens of other countries as well... In these uncertain times, while the virus is still an unknown and dreaded enemy, we continue to expose ourselves and our loved ones to COVID-19, for the sake of our country and its people, and because we firmly believe it is our moral obligation to do so."

The pilots spoke of facing "numerous and severe societal and domestic pressures" in the discharge of their duties in the pandemic times. "...we have flown and still continue to fly long hours in absolutely uncomfortable suffocating conditions donning PPE kits, and continue to live in constant fear of exposure. We have also been subject to repetitive and invasive medical examinations and are harassed by the residents in the areas we reside in for flying to other nations.... numerous AI pilots have contracted the virus, while in the line of duty," the Executive pilots said in the letter, requesting the airline management to "correct this gross injustice".

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