The office order on cost-cutting measures is just "smokes and mirrors," the pilots unions alleged, adding, "other than hastily cutting the hard-earned wages of frontline employees, the management is yet to make any tangible progress on meaningful austerity measures".
Air India pilot unions IPG and ICPA on Saturday threatened they might not be able to extend support to the airline’s “normal operations” and in the matter of flight duty and time limitations (FDTL), alleging that financial and other issues of employees remain unresolved.
The two unions, which represent the pilots operating Boeing and Airbus aircraft of the airline, in a joint letter to the personnel department, also sought to know the outcome of the various cost-cutting measures which the carrier initiated in March to deal with its precarious finances in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) and the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) letter comes ahead of the resumption of commercial passenger services on domestic routes from May 25, which were suspended about two months ago along with international services in the wake of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown imposed by the government on March 25.
Air India had announced a host of measures to reduce costs, including withdrawing special allowances for pilots and other facilities for its officials, a 10 per cent deduction in allowances (excluding basic pay, HRA and variable dearness allowance) in respect of all employees, except cabin crew, for a period of three months effective from March.
It had also announced undertaking negotiations to review all agreements with lessors and hotels to reduce their rates.
“We have communicated our precarious financial situation to your office with sufficient notice and clarity. Since it has fallen on deaf ears, we would like to inform you, we may not be in a position to extend FDTL and support for normal operations if the management does not take care of the frontline workers categories and move forcefully to generate revenue for Air India,” the two unions said in a joint letter on Saturday.
It may be mentioned here that both the IPG and ICPA have sought “urgent financial support” from the government on May 7 in a joint communication to Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep singh Puri, saying that “the Air India management has not taken paying wages on time seriously for a long time”.
The office order on cost-cutting measures is just “smokes and mirrors,” the pilots unions alleged, adding, “other than hastily cutting the hard-earned wages of frontline employees, the management is yet to make any tangible progress on meaningful austerity measures”.
“However, that has not stopped the personnel department from blissfully carrying out promotions right in the middle of a raging epidemic escalating the financial expenses. We fail to understand as to how the management legitimise such en-masse promotions simultaneously while endorsing cost cutting measures,” the unions questioned.
“We would like to know the progress and the quantum of money generated from the measures such as negotiation with lessors and whether these agreements have been reviewed and renegotiated with lessors to reduce the rates, especially aircraft lease agreements…,” it said.
The two unions have also sought the details of number of cargo flights operated by Air India to generate revenue more particularly considering that most of such flights, including in-cargo flights, were operated by the private carriers, despite both the ICPA and IPG writing to the airline management in as early as March to utilise its grounded fleet for such an operations for maximum revenue generation.
The pilot unions also alleged that certain retired employees were still being retained instead of engaging serving employees, further draining the finances of Air India.
“While the office order explicitly mentions “except for pilots” the contract of all retired re-employed pilots including those who operated Wuhan evacuations are suspended inharmoniously. This is a case of prejudice towards the pilot community by your office,” it alleged.