(Representative image: AFP)

NEW DELHI: Air India (AI) has cut the pay of its cockpit and cabin crew with retrospective effect from April 1, 2020, till further orders. While the cash-strapped airline management says the reduction is about 40%, crew member say the same is much higher with pilots saying the cut is almost 85%. AI has a monthly wage bill of Rs 230 crore and did not say how much it expected to save from the this move.
“As per the directions of the aviation ministry and approval of the board of directors of AI, it has been decided to rationalise the allowances of employees,” says an office order issued by AI GM (industrial relations) Meenakshi Kashyap.
Employees with gross monthly salary of Rs 25,000 have been spared any cut. For pilots, the order says 11 allowances — that comprise majority of the total pay — like flying allowance, special pay, wide body allowance, check allowance and instructor/examiner allowance have been cut by 40%.
“Flying allowance to be paid on actual hours flown by an individual pilot in a month. However, as a special case, all pilots available for flying will be paid fixed 20 hours of flying allowance or actuals, whichever is higher in a month, during Q1 & 2 of financial year 2020-21 on revised flying allowance rate,” the order says.
For cabin crew, the order says check, standby, flying, wide body, domestic layover and quick return allowances will be deducted by 20% and the same will be paid on actual flying hours.
The executive (senior most) pilots of AI have written to airline chairman Rajiv Bansal opposing the steep cut. “Retrospective action of denying an employee of up to 85% of his/her rightfully earned wages for work already done, which in any case are long overdue. The hourly rate is reduced by 50% and the assured hours are reduced from 70 to 20 hours, ie, 70%. The two combined, amount to an 85% reduction in our current wages. This is for missions flown, which were critical for the nation. On what basis can such gross injustice be explained?” their letter says.
“During the early months (March, April and May 2020) of the pandemic in India, while the country dealt with a nationwide lockdown and most citizens remained safely indoors with their families, we ventured forth to do our bounden duty. We flew to the farthest corners of a world gripped by the deadly and largely unknown virus for the purpose of repatriating, not only our citizens, but citizens of other countries as well…. In these uncertain times, while the virus is still an unknown and dreaded enemy, we continue to expose ourselves and our loved ones to COVID-19, for the sake of our country and its people, and because we firmly believe it is our moral obligation to do so.”
The pilots spoke of facing “numerous and severe societal and domestic pressures” in the discharge of their duties in the pandemic times. “…we have flown and still continue to fly long hours in absolutely uncomfortable suffocating conditions donning PPE kits, and continue to live in constant fear of exposure. We have also been subject to repetitive and invasive medical examinations and are harassed by the residents in the areas we reside in for flying to other nations… numerous AI pilots have contracted the virus, while in the line of duty,” the executive pilots have told the airline management.
Finally, the pilots have requested the management “correct this gross injustice”.


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