Scale back excess backend manpower, close down defunct departments, trim non-essential workforce: Air India pilots

Two pilot wings of national carrier Air India — Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) and Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) — have written a letter to the airline’s Chairman and MD (CMD) Rajiv Bansal, mentioning steps that should be taken to secure the survival of Air India.

“Presently, the management has resorted to an across the board 10% cut on allowances. 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,” said the pilots in the letter.

The letter suggested that Class IV workers be kept away from the allowance cut. “The Class IV employees, who are at the bottom of the organisation’s ladder, are more severely affected by such a salary cut than the employees at higher grades,” the letter read.

“We, therefore, propose 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 pilot body has also suggested the national carrier to take cues from other airlines and follow such mechanisms to cut costs by doing away with excess manpower.

“Air India should also 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 aircrafts. This may be contrasted with Air India which has more than 1600 employees in HR and Finance for a mere 125 aircrafts,” the letter stated.

“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 Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to take cognisance of this excess manpower and trim costs as our aircraft stand under-utilised.”

The pilot body also says that it is time for the national carrier to also look at its employment policies and has suggested measures to get prudent with financial exercises.

“The pandemic-induced crisis is the most opportune time for Air India to address its unviable employment policies and practices. In addition to this excessive staffing of backend operations, the airline is also inexplicably maintaining departments that are completely non-relevant to the aviation business,” the letter added.

“It is high time to take a closer look at the viability of funding defunct departments at the cost of financial viability. It is supremely ironic that the management has done nothing about fixing bloated aircraft to employee ratios or trimming non-essential workforce while simultaneously crying wolf and preaching the need for urgent salary cutbacks,” the pilot bodies wrote.

The pilot bodies also said that the employee strength should be brought down at par with other market players through measures like “compulsory leave without pay” till the situation normalises.