Air India pilots, who are protesting the massive cut in their flying allowance in the wake of increasing cash crunch at the airline amid the coronavirus pandemic, got the backing from an international pilots body which on Wednesday urged the government to intervene in the matter. In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the Indian chapter of International Federation of Airlines Pilots Association (IFALPA) said that it is "shocking" even after being in the line of duty, Air India pilots have been "singled out" for massive pay cut.
The government-owned Air India is on a cost-cutting drive to deal with the situation arising out of COVID-19 which has impacted the aviation sector most globally.
The carrier has announced that the flying crew would be paid according to actual hours flown against a fixed payments for 70 hours, which has effectively slashed their monthly salary by almost 60 per cent.
The loss-making airline has also announced a 50 per cent reduction in monthly allowances of employees drawing monthly gross salary of more than Rs 25,000.
Also, it has implemented a 'Leave Without Pay' scheme for its employees, ranging from six months to five years.
"It is with utmost concern that we bring to your attention, the grave injustice that is being meted out to the Air India pilots via a unilateral and retrospective downward revision of emoluments to the tune of 60 per cent.
"These are the very same pilots who went above and beyond the call of duty when called upon by the government to operate the flights for the repatriation of Indian citizens from the world over," said Sam Thomas, President Airlines Pilots Association of India (ALPA) in the letter to Puri.
Stating that these pilots have operated these flights without concerning their personal health during the global pandemic and they continue to do so, ALPA said, "The entire nation is grateful to their services and appreciated their efforts as the frontline Covid worker.
"Therefore, it is shocking that these pilots, after such selfless service, undergoing; numerous COVID tests and quarantine, have been singled out for a massive wage cut," the letter stated.
Noting that the pilots are not against a downward revision in wages at a time when the airline losses are enormous, Thomas said that it is important to note that the senior management has taken only "seven per cent" wage cut.
"We believe that a reasonable, negotiated revision, applicable across the board, is the only fair solution for which the two competent (pilot) bodies -- the IPG and ICPA-- are available at any time. We therefore request your urgent intervention in the matter and the use of your good office for an amicable resolution," Thomas said in the letter.
The airline has already stated that rationalisation of allowances had to be implemented on account of the difficult financial condition due to COVID-19 and that downward revisions are expected to be reverted back to normal wage levels once the situation improves.