New Delhi: Air India's senior pilots, who have been terminated from service due to the reduced requirements of flights post Covid-19, have asked the company to settle their dues quickly.
In a letter to Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal signed by 61 terminated pilots, they demanded their dues as early as possible since the airlines is "on the cusp of" privatisation.
The termination of senior Air India Captains on contract was effected last week, ostensibly due to the reduced requirements of post-Covid-19 operations.
"We would like to point out that no 'retainership' was paid for the period when we were 'put under temporary suspension' nor the 'one month's retainership' in lieu of notice period paid when we were summarily dismissed just now on 7th August 2020," the pilots said in the letter.
"It is therefore requested that we be paid our current dues by the terms of the contract you have drafted, amounting to a minimum of 30 days retainership in lieu of notice wef August 7, 2020. Retainership of amount as per contract from April 1, 2020 till August 6, 2020," they demanded.
"There is also the issue of a 25 per cent cut in our emoluments which was effected by Air India for a period of five years which rightfully should have been settled at a point when each of us retired individually as a part of our final settlement. This is a gross injustice which affects us at this point when we have been rendered jobless prematurely and with no immediate scope for employment," the pilots said in the letter.
"We look forward to an early settlement of our dues, since the airline is on the cusp of being privatised by the end of the month," the letter said.
The pilots contended that Air India is perhaps the only carrier in the world which retires its valuable and expensively trained resources, such as pilots of commercial aircraft at the age of 58.
"In the past, it might have been appropriate with a life expectancy of 60. In today's environment, life expectancy is beyond 75. With six monthly medical monitoring, 65 years of age is the current limit for holding an ATPL, as I am sure you are aware of. Knowing this, and to get around an archaic Government regulation of superannuation at age 58, Air India has been re-employing pilots up to the age of 65, albeit in increments, the latest of which was for a period of 5 years," the pilots said.
The letter said that the aim of stating this is to point out that in practice, there should be no difference to Air India as to whether a pilot is a contract or a permanent employee.
"In fact in all the privately-owned air carriers, when you cross the age of 58, you lose your administrative positions but since it is authorised by Government regulations, pilots continue to serve the company loyally to the full limit of 65 years," they added.
"This difference by the law is anathema to the senior management of the other departments who retire at 58 and unfortunately they are the ones who control and advise on matters related to pilot employability. To highlight this point, even post-retirement at the age of 58, Air India pilots, desirous of taking up employment with its wholly owned subsidiary Air India Express, have to take get an NOC from Air India. The first pick on retired pilots goes to Air India apparently - but despite this possessiveness in good times, we are the first to be unceremoniously thrown out at the smallest sign of disruption," the pilots emphasised.
"In the event of privatisation, as is the hope, by the end of this month, the rules would be different and any buyer with an iota of foresight would be keen on having trained manpower - which instead of using as a bargaining tool, the Company is throwing away!" the terminated pilots told the CMD.