Air India pilots are not opposing privatisation but want their salary dues of Rs 400 crore cleared before government initiates further steps on stake sale.
"We are not averse to privatisation per se. Our only concerns are that the airline should be sold at a fair value and our pending dues be cleared before the sale," said a senior captain from the airline who did not wish to be named.
Both unions — Indian Pilots Guild
and Indian Commercial Pilots Association
— have taken the similar position with respect to privatisation. However, the other seven employee unions have warned the government of large-scale protests if a proposal from NITI
Aayog to privatise the national carrier is approved.
In January 2013, the Air India management cut staff salaries by 25 per cent on an ad hoc basis amid worsening financial conditions. The salary cut was undertaken before the implementation of the Dharmadhikari Committee report and employee unions' challenged the salary cut as it was done without a notice. The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court.
Subsequently, revised pay scales have been implemented but not all employees are on board. Indian Commercial Pilots Association
accepted the revised pay scales in 2016 and 25 per cent pay cut was restored. But arrears of prior period are pending. The Indian Pilots Guild
and a majority of cabin crew are yet to accept the revised pay scale and still receive 75 per cent of emoluments.
"Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani
gave a written assurance to all employees in 2015 that pending dues belong to the employees and should be released," said a member of the Indian Pilots Guild.
"The management is committed to paying the dues. We have not been able to clear them because we do not have the money. As a goodwill gesture advance against arrears was paid to all employees last October," an executive said.
Air India had estimated Rs 968 crore as employee claims following rationalisation of salaries and recorded it as contingent liabilities in its 2014-15 balance sheet. This includes dues of all employees. The previous year figure was Rs 673 crore.