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55 Air India pilots tested Covid-19 positive: Unions

New Delhi: Air India has proposed a 60 per cent salary cut for pilots amid the Coronavirus pandemic which has infected 55 of its cockpit crew members, said two leading pilot unions of the airline on Thursday.

"The proposed cut for pilots is almost 60 per cent of gross emoluments. It is hilarious to note that the top management has proposed a meagre 3.5 per cent cut on its own gross salary," said a joint letter by the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) and Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG) to Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal.

"For eg. the Director Personnel takes a minuscule cut of 4 per cent on gross pay while a co-pilot who is paid less than the market is given a cut of 60 per cent. How is this justified? Doesn't this amount to unchecked greed and selfishness?" the unions said in Thursday's letter.

While scheduled international flights have been suspended in the country since March 23, Air India has been operating international repatriation flights all around the world under Vande Bharat Mission. Moreover, since scheduled domestic passenger flight operations resumed on May 25, the airline has been operating services domestically too. "As of date, 55 pilots have tested positive for COVID-19. Is it fair to penalise these pilots by saying that they will be paid on actual flying hours? They are unable to fly as they contracted the Coronavirus while on duty. Is this how the MoCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation) wants to honour frontline workers," the unions asked the CMD.

The unions said the CMD informed them that the MoCA has given the directions to slash pilots' salary by 60 per cent.

"This is nowhere at par with market standards. If this is true, then we would like to humbly submit that we would like to seek an appointment with the Hon'ble Minister of Civil Aviation and return all the appreciation letters given to our pilots by him as well as the Honourable Prime Minister for our service to the nation," they stated.

Meanwhile, Air India on Tuesday said it has started the process of identifying employees, based on various factors like efficiency, health and redundancy, who will be sent on compulsory leave without pay (LWP) for up to five years.

Air India has a debt of around Rs 70,000 crore and the government started the process to sell it to a private entity in January this year. The national carrier's net loss in 2018-19 was around Rs 8,500 crore.

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