Air India staff protest pay cut, demand arrears ahead of privatisation

staff unions are protesting against pay cuts and have demanded continuation of medical benefits and payment of arrears before privatisation.

While the pilots unions have asked their members not to undertake extra duties, Employees Union (AIEU) has sought a meeting with civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on payment of arrears, leave encashment, continuation of medical benefits, among other things. The AIEU also wants continuation of ‘welfare facilities’ like free tickets, housing, transport and canteen to continue post privatisation, said general secretary Parag Ajgaonkar.

On Saturday, Indian Commercial Pilots Association and Indian Pilots Guild issued a directive to their members not to extend duty time to protest against the pay cut.

“We have been very patient in the face of mounting neglect by the management during COVID-19 and have left no stone unturned to ensure smooth flight operations continue. The top management however has seen fit to heap discrimination against us under the guise of the ongoing pandemic by unilaterally imposing draconian pay cuts on pilots while absolving itself from any fiscal responsibility towards the national carrier or its frontline employees. This pathetic 3 per cent decrease in the gross cut on our emoluments is the final straw,” ICPA general secretary T Praveen Keerthi and IPG general secretary Kanav Hingorani wrote to their members.

Pilot duty hours and rest period are governed by regulations. These stipulate maximum flying a pilot can undertake and it varies for short haul and long haul flights. For a Delhi- London flight with two pilot operation the duty time of 13 hours is allowed. A technical or weather related departure delay could breach the maximum permissible duty time limit and a pilot would have to take regulatory approval for the same.

“With the union directive pilots can refuse to operate a particular flight if it exceeds duty time. The airline would have to summon other pilots and it could lead to further delays,” a senior pilot said.

An spokesperson refused comment.

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