Will Air India-Indian Airlines staff integration help the national carrier?

Will Air India-Indian Airlines staff integration help the national carrier?

Five years after merger of Air India and Indian Airlines, the national carrier has seen huge losses, erosion in brand equity, many strikes and irate passengers.

Five years after the ill-fated shotgun wedding between Air India (AI) and Indian Airlines, the government on Friday announced that uniform pay scales, allowances and career progression for the employees of the merged airline would be implemented in the next 45 days. These five years have seen huge losses , erosion in brand equity, many strikes and irate passengers.

A virtual standstill regarding the integration of 27,000 employees over the last five years has meant that no constructive action has been taken on human resource (HR) integration of the two airlines. Two sets of employees following disparate systems and processes were forced into an abrupt wedlock.

FULL COVERAGE: Air India crisis

An AI commander for instance gets Rs 8 lakh per month plus $2000 as flying allowance while his counterpart in the erstwhile Indian Airlines gets between Rs 4-Rs 5 lakh plus $1200 per month as flying allowance.

The airlines' bloated wage bill is Rs 3,609 crore annually, or Rs 9.88 crore per day. Questions are being asked as to why nobody bit the bullet on HR integration and rationalisation.

Large dollops of the tax payer's money have been squandered in the process. Should the airline then be shut through a partial lockdown and cleaned thoroughly or should it be allowed to stay afloat, recapitalised and professionalised through a public listing?

In graphics: Air India's troubled mergers

Mail Today
believes that it is time that a call on the airline's future is taken now so that no more good money is thrown after bad. The recent decision to give a fresh Rs 30,000 crore lifeline to the carrier over the next decade stems from the mindset of continuing with a limping airline always looking for dole and handouts while its irresponsible staff thrives.

Announcing a roadmap for implementation of the Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari Committee recommendations on HR integration, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh said there would be parity in pay scales and uniform working conditions for all staffers. Implementation of the recommendations will escalate the already heightened tension at the strike-hit AI.

"We have lot of reservations. This report reinforces our view that management is biased towards Indian Airlines employees. They will get more pay and allowances after being able to fly wide-bodied aircraft. Those currently flying wide-bodied aircraft will have to face pay cuts as they will be demoted to narrow-body aircraft where emoluments are far less. Bringing the pay scale in line with industry standards will result in pay cut for former Air India pilots as they are getting more. Somebody has to address our concern. The report will not resolve the issue," said a pilot flying a wide-bodied aircraft on the condition of anonymity.

A pilot of the erstwhile Indian Airlines said, "The report has come out on expected lines. The government does not want any additional cost on the airline; so, salaries will come down and the report corroborates this.

Bringing down wages in line with industry standards will cause more industrial unrest as the wages of loaders, supervisors and other ground staff will come down drastically. Forget about pilots. Lowgrade employees will launch more vigorous agitation. Tension will escalate in the coming days."

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters that the integration of employees was necessary if the merger of AI has to succeed. The minister said the pay scales and the allowance structure for pilots, engineers, cabin crew and technicians would be determined on the basis of industry norms. Since these salaries are higher than the norms laid down by the department of public enterprises, the proposal will have to be approved by the Cabinet.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

Published on: Jun 02, 2012, 12:07 PM IST
Posted by: Navneeta N, Jun 02, 2012, 12:07 PM IST