NEW DELHI — To secure the financial health and survival of Air India, the national carrier's pilot unions have called for instituting measures like compulsory leave without pay.
The move, the unions say, will help the airline tide over the Covid-19 induced economic contraction.
Presently, the management has resorted to an across the board 10 percent cut in allowances.
In a letter to the airline's Chief Managing Director Rajiv Bansal, both the pilots unions - IPG and ICPA - said: "Since Air India is in financial distress on account of the pandemic, the employee strength should be brought at par with other market players through common sense measures like a 'compulsory leave without pay' till such time normal operations resume.”
"Many airlines have invoked their employees to proceed on 'leave without pay.” The company may even consider permitting such employees to take on some temporary assignment or engagement during this period to tide over the current hardship."
As per the letter, Air India should be guided by how other players in the aviation sector are battling the adversities of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We understand that a leading private carrier has an employee strength of 250 in finance and 130 in HR, handling a fleet of 255 aircraft. This may be contrasted with Air India which has more than 1,600 employees in HR and Finance for a mere 125 aircraft," the letter said.
"This is nowhere in line with market standards and since operations have been scaled back, their workload has reduced drastically. It is prudent for Air India and the MoCA to take cognizance of this excess manpower to trim costs as our aircraft stand under-utilized."
On the management's decision for 10 percent reduction in allowances on across the board basis, the unions said: "While prima facie appearing to be fair, this scheme distributes the financial burden across the various categories of employees in an extremely discriminatory manner amounting to treating unequal people equally."
The unions proposed that Class IV employees should be exempt from such a wage cut.
"Their liability can be borne by other employees who are earning higher salaries," the letter said.
In addition, the unions said that if any meaningful cost saving has to be effected, the financial burden must be fairly distributed between all employees, based on their job functions and emoluments.
"This necessitates defining austerity measures in the form of a percentage cut on total earnings rather than any particular salary head, which may differ widely across different categories of employees rendering the whole exercise discriminatory," the letter said.