India: Air India pilots warn of ‘industrial action’ over wage cut

Disinvestment-bound Air India’s pilot unions have rejected the paltry five per cent rollback in their salary cuts and warned of “industrial action” if there is no “substantial” reversal in their paycuts.

In a joint letter to Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal on Thursday, the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) and the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) said, “(The) pittance in the form of a five per cent decrease in the current wage cut is an outright insult, its sting magnified in light of our unwavering support and trust in this company.”

In April, Air India had reduced its pilots’ salary by up to 70 per cent to partially offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its finances.

“We have given the management every benefit of doubt as well as ample time to redress the issue of disproportionate paycut for pilots of Air India and its subsidiaries so there is no point left in mincing words.

“If we do not see a timely substantial reduction in this disproportionate paycut, we will be forced to seek justice through harsher means including ‘Industrial Action’,” the two unions said.

In the letter, the unions said, “We do not accept this paltry five per cent rollback in illegal paycut and you may advise the concerned to donate this five per cent towards funds for building the Parliament or PM-CARES (Fund).”

Right now, the “disproportionate unilateral” paycut imposed on pilots in the name of COVID-19 amounts to a gross reduction of the pilots’ rightful wages from April, the letter said.

It added, “This cut has been carefully worded to slash our wages by more than half while insulating top management from any meaningful austerity contribution such as a fair percentage cut on gross emoluments which spreads the burden fairly.”

Stating that the pilots have been been patient and shown a lot of restraint to ensure smooth flight operations and have gone above and beyond during this pandemic, the letter said. “In spite of 171 pilots testing COVID-19-positive, operations continue to run smoothly even in the face of a resurgence of an even deadlier strain of COVID-19.”

It also said that while the parliamentarians themselves have taken a cut of 30 per cent on gross emoluments and refused to take a higher cut, it is egregious for pilots “to continue tolerating this arbitrary massive paycut of 55 per cent on our gross emoluments”.

In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri last month, the unions had said that while other airlines have restored the wages, Air India group pilots continue to get reduced salaries, up to 70 per cent lower than normal wages.

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