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Air India Staff Unions Protest Pay Cuts, Seek Continuation of Existing Benefits Post Privatisation

A consortium of 209 Air India employees have submitted an expression of interest for the airlines in partnership with a private financier.
Air India

Hyderabad: Things are heating up as the privatisation of Air India is underway. Members of the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG) and the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) have decided to not extend ‘unconditional cooperation’ to Air India’s top management in protest against the unfair pay cuts. The Air India Employees Union has also separately demanded that the Union Aviation Ministry settles their long pending concerns.

Meanwhile, a consortium of its employees’ bid for Air India is also raising curiosity among the employees’ unions.

Condemning the pay cut of pilots, Kanav Hingorani, General Secretary of IPG and T Praveen Keerthi, General Secretary of ICPA, wrote a letter to Air India director R S Sandhu and informed about the withdrawal of their ‘unconditional cooperation.’

“We have been very patient in the face of mounting neglect by the management during COVID-19 and have left no stone unturned to ensure smooth flight operations continue. The top management, however, has seen fit to heap discrimination against us under the guise of the ongoing pandemic by unilaterally imposing draconian pay cuts on pilots while absolving itself from any fiscal responsibility towards the national carrier or its frontline employees. This pathetic 3% decrease in the gross cut on our emoluments is the final straw,” the letter by IPG and IPCA said.

“This is to inform you that we will no longer extend unconditional cooperation while the top management continues to mock the dignity of our profession,” stated the letter.

Meanwhile, Air India Employees Union (AIEU) wrote to Union Minister Hardeep Puri asking for a meeting and seeking extension of the medical scheme, leave encashment and provident fund benefits. In the event of privatisation of Air India, the union urged the ministry to ensure that the present medical benefits are extended, the two provident fund trusts are continued, arrears are paid and the leave encashment scheme is continued.

In January, the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) initiated the privatisation of Air India. As the pandemic hit, the process was delayed and December 14 was fixed as the deadline for bidders for submitting expressions of interest.

Reportedly, a consortium of 209 Air India employees have submitted an expression of interest for the airline in partnership with a private financier.

“Due to the support we will receive from our financial partner, I anticipate that each of us will have to make a contribution of no more Rs 1,00,000, to bid for the company, this is a detail which I will be better placed to convey to you all once we have passed the initial stage of the EoI. Moreover, after successfully completing stage one, we are planning our bid in such a way that no single employee will have to take on a financial risk or contribute more than Rs 1,00,000," said Meenakshi Mallik, current commercial director of Air India and the leader of the consortium, in a communication to the employees.

Reportedly, the Tata Group is also in the race for acquiring Air India.

Notably, earlier this month, IPG and ICPA urged their members to not to acknowledge or participate in the bidding process till the “disproportionate pay cut for pilots” is addressed.

Those who qualify to bid will be intimated on January 5.

Despite large-scale protests and alternative resolution proposals by the employees, the central government went ahead with its plans to privatise Air India.

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