The Supreme Court on Monday refused to pass any interim order on a batch of cross-appeals filed by Air India (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.
“There has to be a practical way out. Any order should not be harsh on your employer (AI) also,” a bench of justices Anil R Dave and Kurian Joseph said, adding, “At this stage, we are not going to grant interim reliefs (to employees’ unions).”
On being asked by the bench to find a “way out” to the impasse, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the national carrier, said a four-member panel headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice D M Dharmadhikari was appointed to look into various issues that had arisen after the merger of AI and Indian Airlines.
“Earlier, salaries were less and allowances were huge and the commission found that the total package was unviable,” Rohatgi said, adding 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 USD 2,000 to USD 2,500, without flying minimum stipulated hours,” Rohatgi said, adding that around 3,500 AI officials have already accepted the panel’s recommendations.
The AG said that the AI management was not bound to give a notice to the employees under a provision of the Industrial Disputes Act before implementing the panel’s report.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for one of the employees’ unions, said that 35 per cent wage cut has been enforced without following the due process of law.
“Officers have been given the increment and our salaries have been cut. We are seeking restoration of our earlier salaries,” he said.
AI and various unions have filed cross-appeals against the Bombay High Court order which on January 27 had declined to stay the implementation of the panel’s report.
The High Court, however, had held that AI should have given notices to employees as implementation of the panel’s report amounted to change in service conditions.