The Supreme Court on Monday refused to pass any interim order on disbursing salaries to pilots and other employees of Air India (AI), saying putting the public carrier under any additional burden at this juncture may “kill the hen.”
“There has to be a practical way out. Any order should not be harsh on your employer (AI). We have to take care not to put any extra burden on them since it may kill them altogether. At this stage, we are not going to grant interim relief,” a bench of Justices Anil R Dave and Kurian Joseph said.
The bench was hearing a batch of cross-appeals filed by the AI and various employees’ unions against a Bombay High Court order on implementation of Dharmadhikari panel’s recommendations on merger of erstwhile Indian Airlines and AI.
On being asked by the bench to find a way out to the impasse, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that a four-member panel headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice DM Dharmadhikari was appointed to look into various issues that had risen after the merger of AI and Indian Airlines.
The prime bone of contention is whether the AI was obligated to give a notice to the employees under a provision of the Industrial Disputes Act before implementing the panel’s report. While the government and the carrier has maintained it was not required since the employees had participated in the proceedings before the panel, pilots and other employees argue otherwise. “Earlier, salaries were less and allowances were huge and the commission found that the total package was not viable,” said Rohatgi, while adding that the panel suggested substantial increase in basic salary and trimmed certain allowances. This arrangement may lessen the present salary, but increases the post retirement benefits, he said.
“You cannot be given flying allowances, which used to be $2,000 to $2,500, without flying minimum stipulated hours,” Rohatgi said, adding that around 3,500 AI officials have already accepted the panel’s recommendations.