Panel on AI-IA wage parity to get into action next week

Written by Shaheen Mansuri | Mumbai | Updated: Mar 24 2011, 09:22am hrs
The wage parity issue between erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA) and Air India (AI) seems close to being resolved, with an arbitration committee scheduled to meet the unions and management from next week onwards to study various aspects of the issue.

An independent, four-member committee of experts will look into the matter and arrive at a final conclusion. the panel will include Justice (retd) DN Dharmadhikari as chairman, along with Syed Nasir Ali as member secretary. The committee will be based at Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi and is expected to deliver its report within five months.

FE had reported on January 17, that national carrier AI will set up an arbitration committee headed by a retired judge to look into the matter.

HP Ranina, advocate, Supreme Court told FE, In this case, wherein an arbitration panel has been set up by AI, the arbitrators award will be final and binding and will become a decree in the court. Prior to forming the arbitration panel, Nacil (National Aviation Company of India Limited) that runs AI, had conducted a series of meetings with IA and AI unions to arrive at a solution, but failed to find a solution.

In fact, in 2007 when AI and IA merged, the then CMD at AI, V Thulasidas had said that the merger is an amalgamation of two cultures and it will take 2-3 years for the Nacil to attain operational integration. However, in the past three years, frequent agitations on delay in salaries is not the only problem that IA has faced in the area of human resources. There are issues between AI and erstwhile IA employees on mismatch in ranks and disparity in wages.

Asish Arora, managing director, HR Anexi said, AI is a national carrier with a gigantic workforce of 31,000 employees. Human resource issues takes away a major chunk of the attention of the management, which in turn is making a dent in the business of the airline.

He further said that the carrier is moving in the right direction by forming the panel. Once the HR issues are sorted out, AI can give competition to other private carriers, he added. AI has a market share of only 15.8% with a fleet of 111 aircraft when compared with private carrier Jet Airways 26.1% share with around 90 aircraft.Nacil gives R3,000 crore annually towards salaries. Following the merger, issues related to human resource integration have not been sorted out despite negotiations between AI and IAs administrative staff and the company's top brass. Staff of both airlines argue that they have got a raw deal compared to their counterparts in the other airline.

An executive from IA laments that some of the airlines staff have not got promotions even after putting in over ten years of service, while an executive at AI, who has put in same number of years, enjoys a higher rank. He further said that when the merger was announced, the IA management had given verbal assurances to the employees that they will get the posts they deserve in the merged entity. But nothing substantial has come out yet.

Meanwhile, AI in a statement has said that the Committee will examine the principles of integration across various cadres including determination of level mapping and seniority, suggest harmonised working conditions for various categories of employees, examine principles governing the retirement benefits, make recommendations with respect to the parameters of different productivity linked incentive schemes applicable to the employees to bring them in line with competition and other matters relating to harmonisation.