Representing the pilots, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), the union of former Indian airline pilots, in a formal statement gave notice to the national carrier for targetting pilots through the non-payment of benefits, including flying allowances, and other abuses like the taxation of disability insurance benefits, alleged pay deductions, and unwarranted suspensions.
It claimed Air India discriminated by clearing the payment of full salaries to the employees of other airlines while denying their own pilots and cabin crew the same.
Cautioning Air India’s management of vested interests which could push the aggrieved pilots to resort to industrial unrest measures, the ICPA appealed to the airline, to prioritize the resolution of all pending issues, in its statement.
It stated that if India’s national carrier wasn't inclined to settle existing differences, it should pay all entitlement debts immediately, and waive the mandatory six months’ notice period for pilots who opted to quit.
Some netizens endorsed the ICPA’s move to put the national carrier on notice.
Govt shall better close down this firm and if willing shall be entrusted to Tatas for takeover. - https://t.co/qwmqXVbx3Z— BCMenon (@balpallavi) July 17, 2019
According to a report in the daily Times of India, the airline management said Air India’s financial situation is precarious and it lacks funds to pay staff salaries beyond October this year unless it receives an equity infusion, through the government, its current owner, or through a new owner after its planned disinvestment.
Air India has outstanding salaries of $874.5 million (Rs. 60,000 crores) in addition to what is owed to pilots.
That the intentions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government regarding the disinvestment are clear from Budget Proposals for Fiscal 2019-20 which indicate a mere allocation of only $14,575 (Rs.100,000) for the airline.
About a week ago, India’s Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri informed the country’s parliament that the government is committed to the disinvestment of Air India, but wants the national carrier to remain in Indian hands. He said although Air India is doing "extremely well", the carrier’s debt burden is "unsustainable".
Minister Puri said the airline’s debt burden was a major reason for the government wanting to disinvest it.
This is the second attempt to disinvest the airline. The previous attempt to disinvest it was unsuccessful, but this time the government has a mechanism in place to facilitate this sale Puri said.