AI staff integration process to start in 45 days: Ajit

New Delhi: Five years after merger of two state-run airlines, government today announced that implementation of uniform structures for pay, allowances and career progression for Air India employees would start in 45 days, saying it was necessary if the airline is to survive.

"This (employees` integration) is necessary if merger (in Air India) has to succeed, if Air India has to survive. The government is giving Rs 30,000 crore …. One thing is clear. Government will not give public money any more to Air India," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters here.

He also asked the striking pilots that their demands relating to their career progression can be examined only after they returned to work. "They should unilaterally call off their strike. The (Delhi) High Court has also said the same thing. It is an illegal strike. We will consider all their demands after they join back," Singh said.

Announcing a roadmap for implementation of the Justice D M Dharmadhikari Committee recommendations on HR integration of the employees of erstwhile Air India and Indian Airlines, he said there would be parity in pay scales and uniform working conditions for all staffers. The airlines were merged in 2007.

However, the pay scales and allowance structure for pilots, engineers, cabin crew and technicians would be determined on the basis of industry norms. "Since these issues are not dealt with by DPE guidelines, the Union Cabinet`s approval is required."

A panel of officials has been set up for implementation of various recommendations on pay fixation, level-mapping of all employees and their promotional avenues.

This panel, called the Implementation-cum-Anomaly Committee, would seek the views of all sections of employees and complete its task within the next 45 days, Singh said. "We will be patient and persuasive in talking to the employees. They will realise their future depends on the future of Air India," he said.

For the executive cadre, the recommended pay scales would be as per the DPE norms, while that for the non-executive cadre, it would be in accordance with the industry norms. The Dharmadhikari Committee also recommended that the pay of all employees would be protected and their allowances fixed as per the DPE guidelines.

The crucial Productivity-Linked Incentive (PLI) "in its present form will be abolished", the Minister said, adding that it would be "subsumed in determination of basic pay to the extent admissible in the DPE guidelines". The implementation of these recommendations would lead Air India to "save Rs 250 crore on wages in the first year", he said.

Reacting to the Dharmadhikari report, the Indian Pilots` Guild (IPG), which is spearheading the pilots` strike, said it was "tailor-made to suit the interests of the employees of erstwhile Indian Airlines. It reinforces the bias and prejudice that the management harbours against the employees of erstwhile Air India vis-a-vis erstwhile IA."

Maintaining that the ailing national carrier was losing an average of Rs 10-15 crore daily due to the IPG strike, the Minister said Air India planned to reduce this loss to Rs five crore as it was operating a truncated international schedule.

Under this, Air India was flying 38 out of 45 international flights each day. "The less you fly, the less you lose", he quipped, saying that the airline was not operating on loss-making routes.

Air India would soon be with a new business plan which would include "hiring of new pilots if necessary". The plan would be prepared after reviewing the airline operations on all routes, particularly in the international sector where it was making losses or was not able to recover fuel costs.