Monday, March 5, 2012

Unpaid Air India pilots to fly 'cash & carry’

NEW DELHI: Unpaid for months and fed up with hollow promises of getting their dues, pilots of Air India domestic have decided to put the airline on "cash-and-carry " from April 1. After a meeting of their union on Sunday, it has been left to individual pilots to tell the management that they will fly from next month only if their dues - five months' performance-linked incentive (PLI) and three months' salary - are paid fully or at least substantially.

While many agitated members wanted some immediate action, the union, Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA), decided against giving a strike call as such protests have only led to promises from the government in the past, which were never kept. "The top people in the ministry and management (read minister Ajit Singh, secretary Nasim Zaidi and chairman Rohit Nandan) want to pay us but the money has to come from the government which is not happening.

A common draft has been prepared which pilots (who wish to do so) will start sending from Monday to the management about not being available for duty from April 1 without clearance of dues," said sources.

Atop aviation ministry official admits that the "ball is not in their court" as the equity has to come from the government . But the employees are running out of patience, which is evident from the text of the letter prepared on Sunday : "It is very demoralizing not to have been paid my longpending dues inspite of repeated assurances from the highest authority, the last one being on January 1, 2012... The continuing instability and non-payment of salaries for several months has caused me immense financial stress... A combination of these factors makes it impossible for me to continue my flying duties. Therefore, I request you to kindly ensure that either all my dues are cleared by March 31 or consider me unavailable for work starting April 1."

While the equity infusion has to come from the government , pilots of both AI and Kingfisher are now pointing fingers at aviation authorities . "When a pilot, who has not been paid for months, is in the cockpit and his mind is elsewhere due to financial stress, he does not fly the plane. The plane flies him. It is indeed a serious safety hazard . But neither the DGCA nor the ministry are looking at this aspect," said a senior commander.

AI and Kingfisher together account for nearly one-third of the domestic market share. And, with question marks hanging on their schedules with unpaid pilots threatening to stop work, along with safety issues with Kingfisher, air travellers face an uncertain future.
Source: India Times

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