Air India has proposed a 60 per cent salary cut for pilots amid the coronavirus pandemic which has infected 55 of its cockpit crew members, said two leading pilot unions of the airline on Thursday. "The proposed cut for pilots is almost 60 per cent of gross emoluments. It is hilarious to note that the top management has proposed a meagre 3.5 per cent cut on its own gross salary," said a joint letter by the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) and Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) to Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal.
"For eg. the Director Personnel takes a minuscule cut of 4 per cent on gross pay while a co-pilot who is paid less than the market is given a cut of 60 per cent. How is this justified? Doesn't this amount to unchecked greed and selfishness?" the unions said in Thursday's letter.
While scheduled international flights have been suspended in the country since March 23, Air India has been operating international repatriation flights all around the world under Vande Bharat Mission. Moreover, since scheduled domestic passenger flight operations resumed on May 25, the airline has been operating services domestically too.
"As of date, 55 pilots have tested positive for COVID-19. Is it fair to penalise these pilots by saying that they will be paid on actual flying hours? They are unable to fly as they contracted the coronavirus while on duty. Is this how the MoCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation) wants to honour frontline workers," the unions asked the CMD.
The unions said the CMD informed them that the MoCA has given the directions to slash pilots' salary by 60 per cent. "This is nowhere at par with market standards. If this is true, then we would like to humbly submit that we would like to seek an appointment with the Hon'ble Minister of Civil Aviation and return all the appreciation letters given to our pilots by him as well as the Honourable Prime Minister for our service to the nation," they stated.
Meanwhile, Air India on Tuesday said it has started the process of identifying employees, based on various factors like efficiency, health and redundancy, who will be sent on compulsory leave without pay (LWP) for up to five years. Equity infusion of Rs 500-600 crore every year is not sustainable and cost-cutting in Air India is necessary, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday, justifying the national carrier's decision to send certain employees on leave without pay for up to five years.
The minister's remarks came after TMC MP Derek O'Brien slammed Air India, saying its leave-without-pay scheme violates labour laws and is an 'obvious ploy' to protect the top management and sacrifice other workers.