Air India’s New Pay Structure and Policies Draws Criticism from Pilots’ Unions

On April 17, Tata Group’s Air India announces a new pay structure and rostering system for its cabin crew and pilots.

In an internal communication, CEO Wilson Campbell notified employees that the airline will be introducing a new color scheme, revamped cabin interiors, and fresh uniforms for cabin crews in the near future.

Over the last 6 months, the airline implemented 29 new policies for employees as a step in their five-year transformative plan.

It is estimated that a senior Air India commander who flies for 70 hours per month can now earn as much as Rs 8.50 lakh ($10,397) per month. This remuneration is comparable, if not superior, to the top pilot salaries in India.

The Chairman of Tata Group, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, has outlined four main areas of focus for Air India, which include delivering top-notch customer service, becoming the world’s most technologically advanced airline, modernizing and upgrading its fleet, and enhancing both in-flight and off-flight hospitality.

However, some Air India pilots are disappointed with the latest pay structure and employment policies.

The pilot unions such as Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) and Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), have lodged a written complaint with the airline’s HR head, denouncing Air India’s “unfair labor practice.”

In a joint statement, the two unions have expressed their opposition and stated in Times of India interview, “These terms and conditions are not acceptable to us, and we will contest this travesty using any and all avenues available to us. Our member pilots will not sign these unilateral revised terms of employment and compensation. Any coercive steps or victimization by the company against our member pilots to sign these draconian terms and compensation will lead to industrial unrest,”

Furthermore, they have also accused the company of providing a misleading cost estimate based on 70 hours of flying, as the actual guaranteed pay is only for 40 hours.

“The company wants to completely absolve itself from the responsibility of providing pilots with a stable roster around which we can plan our lives. As per company ‘requirement’ and in the name of ‘business exigency’, pilots are now expected to be on call 24/7, effectively on perpetual standby. So any family or social commitments, or semblance of work-life balance that pilots may want, is now irrelevant,” says the pilots’ representative.

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