Air India crisis: HR issues behind carrier's union unrest

Lalatendu Mishra   Mumbai     Last Updated: June 11, 2012  | 18:33 IST

The government's resolve to implement the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee's report on human resource (HR) integration in Air India is fuelling unrest in the carrier's unions.

Pilots affiliated to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG-Air India) who are on strike for 30 days are unhappy as the report allegedly favours Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA-Indian Airlines) in pay and career progression. The ground staff are also peeved that their allowances would be drastically cut.

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Employees of Air India get productivity-linked incentives (PLI), which constitute a major portion of the pay package. PLI will now be scrapped as no lossmaking public sector undertaking allows such incentives. This issue is going to snowball into a big crisis and aviation consultancy firm Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa) has predicted that the Maharaja could face a temporary shutdown due to massive HR issues.

Since 2009, AI employees have organised six strikes-three by pilots and the rest by disgruntled ground staff demanding salary payment.

According to experts, now that a partial lockout is apprehended due to the chain of strikes, the government should immediately start an aggressive plan to offer voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to reduce the workforce and contain the unrest by offering an attractive package.

"The government's decision on the VRS will be a laudable step if the motive is to ensure that Air India does not expand or maintain its present level of operation.

The government needs to trim the non-operational workforce and not in operations areas where there is manpower shortage," said Jitender Bharghava, former executive director, AI. The much delayed demerger proposal of strategic business units-engineering and ground handling-if immediately implemented, will reduce the number of employees to 16,000 from 27,000. While 7,000 employees will be moved to the engineering subsidiary called Air India Engineering Services Ltd, the balance will migrate to the ground handling arm called Air India Transport Services Ltd.

This would bring down AI's employee strength to 10,000 and with 122 aircraft in its fleet, the employee per aircraft ratio will come down to 82 from 221. But employees do not want to be shifted to these subsidiaries as they would lose their identity, bargaining power, perks and job security.

AI's turnaround plan has become a casualty. "There is nobody taking ownership of the turnaround of AI. For the last two years, Capa has advocated that AI should be placed under special administration similar to that adopted for Satyam if any meaningful progress is to be achieved," said Kapil Kaul, chief executive, South Asia, Capa.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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