Screws tighten on striking pilots,govt accepts Dharmadhikari report

The govt has also decided to abolish the controversial productivity-linked incentives

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Published: June 2, 2012 3:14 am

With Air India pilots still on strike,the government announced Friday that beginning mid-July,it would implement uniform pay scales,promotions,level-mapping and career progression for the airline’s 30,000 employees.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh announced a roadmap based on recommendations of the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee,which includes a 10-15 per cent cut in salaries of pilots,engineers and cabin crew in line with industry benchmarks. As reported by The Indian Express on May 17,pilots,engineers and technicians will,however,follow two separate lines of seniority as prevalent in Indian Airlines and Air India.

The government has also decided to abolish the controversial productivity-linked incentives for pilots,which account for up to 80 per cent of their total compensation.

A member of the striking Indian Pilots’ Guild conceded that the government’s announcement had “pushed (them) further into a corner.” “The report seems to be highly biased. We have serious reservations. With whom are they going to discuss the concerns that we have?” he said.

The guild,a union of pre-merger AI pilots,was de-recognised during the ongoing strike,and 101 members,including ten leaders,sacked.

In sharp contrast to the IPG,the Air Corporation Employees’ Union,a union of 11,000 employees of the erstwhile IA,hailed the ministry’s decision to implement the Dharmadhikari report,calling it “historic”.

Singh said savings on account of wage restructuring are expected to be Rs 250 crore in the first year on an annual wage bill of Rs 3,200 crore. “The report addresses the pending issues arising after the merger (of IA with AI)… One thing is clear. The government will not put any more public money into the carrier,” he said.

The government has set a target of three months for implementing the Dhamadhikari recommendations. The ministy will approach the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) with a proposal related to restructuring the salaries of pilots,engineers and cabin crew. “We will have to seek a dispensation from the CCEA as their allowances are higher than 5 per cent of the basic salary,as allowed by the Department of Public Enterprises,” Singh said.

For all other categories,the bulk of the PLI would be subsumed in their basic salary. A voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to downsize at least 10 per cent of manpower would be offered soon,which may cost the company around Rs 200 crore.

Putting to rest the controversy over the training of IA pilots on the Dreamliner aircraft ordered by pre-merger AI,the report has said that the entire manpower,including pilots,should be cross-utilised. The IPG went on strike on May 8 protesting the decision to send IA pilots for Dreamliner training.

The implementation of the report would render the existing wage agreements signed between the management and over a dozen unions of the airline “null and void”,said a senior ministry official. The report has advocated a profit-related pay (PRP),which would kick in only after the airline turns profitable by 2018,as per the turnaround plan.

The Dharmadhikari committee has decided April 1,2007 as the cut-off date for the purpose of implementing new payscales. The new HR integration plan,as recommended by the committee,was recently accepted by the government.

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