Just greed? 'Highest paid' Air India pilots withdraw strike call in 24 hours

This is a fine example of greed overtaking sense. What else explains the sudden call for strike which Air India pilots, affiliated to the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), gave over the weekend and then abruptly withdrew it by Sunday night? Perhaps the pilots thought that with new airlines waiting to fly and job opportunities increasing, this was as good a time as any to threaten AI with a strike.

Sindhu Bhattacharya December 21, 2014 01:32:29 IST
Just greed? 'Highest paid' Air India pilots withdraw strike call in 24 hours

New Delhi: This is a fine example of greed overtaking sense. What else explains the sudden call for strike which Air India pilots, affiliated to the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), gave over the weekend and then abruptly withdrew it by Sunday night? Perhaps the pilots thought that with new airlines waiting to fly and job opportunities increasing, this was as good a time as any to threaten AI with a strike.

AirAsia India is expected to begin flying soon and Tata-SIA should take to the skies before the new year comes to a close. Already, there have been reports of a significant number of wide body pilots of Air India wanting to leave for better pay at the Jet-Etihad combine. ICPA pilots fly domestic and short haul international routes.

So within 24 hours of a strike call, the ICPA pilots withdrew it saying they have a firmcommitmentfor the airline management about payment of allowances. Allowances form about 85% of a pilots' emoluments, unlike other professions where salary component is much larger. The pilots say they have not been paid at least a fourth of their allowances for about 7 months and no allowances at all for 2 months. But top officials of Air India told Firstpost it has been clear to pilots that allowances will be paidon the 7th and 8th of this month.

"They (the pilots) seem to be having internal problems and with their association's elections close by, perhaps this was seen as a good time to threaten the airline management. But they were told early on that allowances will be paid on 7 and 8 January and this message was merely reiterated in a meeting we held with some ICPA representatives yesterday," the airline officials told Firstpost.

Just greed Highest paid Air India pilots withdraw strike call in 24 hours

Reports of a pilot exodus from AI are untrue. Reuters

These officials said the airline had commitments to clear dues of insurance companies, banks by December 31st which is why allowances were delayed this time. Both, the pilots and airline officials, denied there was any demand to raise wages. An ICPA representative said there is another meeting with the airline management this morning but the strike call has been withdrawn for now.

Already, the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee which oversaw integration of the erstwhile Air India and Indian Airlines, has noted that pilots working for the sarkari airline are "the highest paid pilots in the country" said airline officials, adding that this statement came after the Dharmadhikari Committee studiedsalariesof international pilots as well as those working with other airlines in India.

If these contentions are true, the ICPA pilots have even lesser reason to threaten strike each time their salaries or allowances are delayed.

Refuting widespread media reports about as many as 45 wide body pilots (trained in Boeing 777 operations) quitting Air India shortly to take up lucrative postings in the Jet-Etihad combine, AI officials said only two narrow body pilots and seven on wide body aircraft e left AI last year. "We have no notices from any more wanting to quit. Reports of a pilot exodus from AI are untrue."

Air India has been struggling with its finances since the Rs 3500 crore equity support which theGovernmenthad promised it has not arrived. This is over and above the Rs 5000 crore equity support for 2013-14, which was received in full. Airline officials said that the Rs 3500 crore was in dues from previous years and instead of giving the money, the Government only gave a sovereign guarantee for Rs 2000 crore. Against this, the airline raised working capital loans of Rs 2000 crore at 12% interest rate, thereby hurting its financial situation further.

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