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Air India pilots demand settlement of liabilities

NEW DELHI :

Air India pilots have again written to the management to clear their dues ahead of the transfer of the airline to Tata Group, warning that failure to do so could lead to “mass protest and industrial unrest.”

The development comes about a fortnight after the Tata Group, the winning bidder for the airline in a divestment process, and the central government signed a share purchase agreement (SPA) for the national carrier.

Upon the completion of the transaction, which the government hopes to conclude by the end of December, the Tata group will be given full control of Air India and its low-cost unit Air India Express, as well as a 50% stake in ground handling company Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt. Ltd.

“At this critical juncture where the international skies have opened up and the domestic demand is steadily rising due to the festive season, the pilots are once again being stretched beyond capacity to cover additional flights,” said a letter written by Indian Pilots Guild, a union of the airline comprising pilots operating wide body aircraft, on 7 November to the chairman and managing director of the airline.

“We trust that you will ensure that the process of settling arrears is righteously carried out so as to not leave the employees feeling cheated.”

“We are truly optimistic about making a fresh start with our new owners. We urge you not to exploit us employees whilst settling our arrears as that would probably lead to mass protest and industrial unrest just as the company changes hands,” it added.

A copy of the letter has been reviewed by Mint.

The top position at the airline currently lies vacant after Rajiv Bansal, former chairman and managing director of Air India, took charge as secretary of the ministry of civil aviation on 1 October.

Among other things in the letter, the pilots’ union also asked the airline’s management to settle arrears arising out of a 2006 wage agreement, suspected tax liabilities on reimbursement of layover allowance, dollar payment liabilities and interest on arrears, apart from providing a comprehensive statement on pending dues.

“The company has long been aware of the liability due to employees as well as the Govt.’s commitment to settling these dues. There is a need for transparency concerning the said matter,” the letter said.

“Factoring in the vital points raised above, we immediately seek a detailed statement with a working calculation of dues pending for each of our members,” it added.

An Air India spokesperson said the airline doesn’t comment on its internal issues.

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