New Delhi, July 23 : Air India’s executive pilots have urged the government to roll back the recently-announced ‘Wage Cuts’ and ‘Leave Without Pay’ policy, citing the dangers the airline’s aviators faced in operating the crucial ‘Vande Bharat’ repatriation flights as well as their contribution in smoothly running the national carrier during the pandemic.
In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the Executive Pilots Association said: “As of date, at least 60 plus pilots have tested Covid positive. Furthermore, unlike other wars, the enemy has accompanied the warriors home to affect their family members with devastating effect. At least, one pilot has lost a family member to Covid-19 and those of many others have been infected. With a steady rise in cases, the situation can only get worse from now on.”
“This raises obvious questions in our minds. Do frontline public servants on Covid related duty, who are risking their lives up in the skies and on bio-hazard frontlines, deserve such indignity, humiliation and debasement, while so many others in the same organisation, ensconced in the warmth and comfort of their homes, deserve preferential, kid glove treatment? Why do other Government run organisations and Central Services that employ public servants on Covid duty, such as Indian Railways, CAP, AIIMS etc, offer pay protection, ethics, equity and natural justice to their employees, while ours cannot?”
The association represents the executive pilots of the ‘Wide Body Cadre’ of Air India.
Besides, the letter said that pilots, who are at the core matrix of the airline operations, along with taking maximum risks upon themselves and their families, are being targeted the most.
“Our Association is also extremely concerned about the potentially disastrous psychological impact that the massive forced pay cuts and compulsory Leave Without Pay scheme, may create on some employees,” the letter said.
“We shudder to think of the kind of desperate and extreme acts that could be triggered off because of the prevailing situation – as has been repeatedly proven many times in the past. These aspects seem to have completely escaped the minds of the architects of the above mentioned adverse policy decisions and pose an extremely serious and plausible threat to flight and public safety. As professionals entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of millions of our valued customers, we request that this matter is deliberated upon with utmost urgency.”
Furthermore, it said that rising stack of litigations and financial liabilities (contingent and current), arising out of pending financial dues owed to employees could potentially destroy the organisation’s future health.
Air India has instituted a massive cut in employee allowances even as protests from all sections of the employees continued.
The rate of allowances other than DPE allowances will stand reduced by 40 per cent.
Last week, the airline cited challenging financial situation for implementing the LWP scheme.
As per the airline, the scheme provides the opportunity to employees to take up alternative employment with the approval of the management during the period of the said leave.
“The only addition in this scheme as compared to the earlier LWP scheme is that the management can pass an order requiring the employees to go on leave for a period of six months or two years (extendable up to 5 years) compulsorily, taking into consideration suitability, efficiency, competence, quality of performance, health, non-availability of employee and redundancy,” the airline had said in a statement.
Air India said that this provision has been introduced for use “very sparingly”, with a view to ensure that the overall efficiency of the organisation improves.
As per Air India’s PIM document, as on November 1, 2019, the airline, on a standalone basis (without subsidiaries), had around 14,000 employees, including fixed term contractual staff.