In a letter to former Air India Chairman and Managing Director and current Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) and Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) warned “industrial action” from December 1, if the issues of ‘illegal pay-cut of 55%’ and other ‘disinvestment issues’ are not addressed within three days by Air India.
Typically, industrial action could mean an indefinite strike or strictly going by the rule book on timing and guidelines. There are about 1000 pilots in two unions, and any industrial action could disrupt the domestic and international aviation operations.
“With the resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services to/ from India from December 15, 2021, and all airlines rolling back the COVID cut, If we do not see the issues related to an illegal pay cut of 55% and the plethora of longstanding disinvestment issues addressed within three days we will have no choice but to seek justice through ‘Industrial Action,” the letter stated.
The pilots of ICPA operate Air India’s Airbus A320 aircraft, and IPG represents the pilots who fly Air India’s Boeing 777 and Boeing 787.
Pay-cut is unfair, says the union
According to the pilots, the decision of pay-cut was unfair, mainly due to the fact that they risked flying long-haul flights to COVID-19 hit countries at the peak of the pandemic. When the pandemic was gaining pace, they piloted flights to various countries, including the UK and Italy. Further, the salaries were reduced with retrospective effect, covering the period when they flew the evacuation flights during the pandemic. The last time they received the full compensation was in March 2020.
Air India crew operated repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission during the height of the pandemic.
This is not the first time that Air India’s pilots have raised their concerns to the management and elicited no response. The latest letter is said to be the final warning. Tata Group has emerged as the top bidder for the full ownership of Air India. In the light of management change, the current management may iron out the issues before the takeover. The national carrier is all set to become a private entity soon.