Mumbai: Air India has convened a meeting of foreign pilots’ recruitment agencies on Wednesday to discuss its proposal to slash wages by 10%, in its bid to reduce costs and the differences between the pay packets of Indian and foreign pilots.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of the agencies opposing any unilateral move on lowering foreign pilots’ wages and allowances and demanding negotiations before any such decision being implemented.
“The AI management has called a meeting on December 16 to discuss the issue of reduction in the wages of expatriate pilots,” a source close to the development told PTI.
The agencies, supplying foreign pilots to the national carrier, have also asked the management not to go ahead with its plan of implementing the proposal from January 1, they said, adding, “initially the management had proposed these cuts from December itself, but after the agencies protested, it extended the cut-off date till January 1.”
The agencies want to consult the pilots before they accept or reject the proposal, they said.
Air India has recently proposed a 10% cut in the salaries of about 150 expat pilots currently on its rolls, besides slashing their bonuses by 50% and withdrawal of reimbursements including travel to home base, licence, medical costs and visa fees. The expat pilots are paid through approved agencies which are given a monthly fee.
The national carrier hires expat pilots through global pilots recruitment agencies like Rishworth Aviation Ltd, Sigma, EDL (Economic Dynamics), Aviator, N.G.Aviation, Tital and Next Gen, with the first three providing over 90% of foreign pilots.
Air India has around 153 foreign pilots, besides 1,253 Indian pilots and about 200 trainees.
A major demand of the Indian pilots unions like ICPA and Indian Pilots Guild, which had recently gone on agitation, is to curtail the packages offered to the expats as a cost-cutting measure and ensure some compatibility between the Indian and foreign pilots’ pays and allowances.
With a total staff strength of 30,505, the airline is targeting to lower its total manpower costs from Rs 839 crore in the first two quarters of the current financial year to Rs 650 crore in the next two quarters, official figures show.
In response to an RTI application earlier, Nacil had said it paid Rs 93.29 crore towards salaries and expenses to the agencies which had provided expat pilots to Air India and Air India Express in the last fiscal.
Nacil had said a Boeing-737 commanding pilot is paid $10,000, while a B-777 commander $12,700, a B-747 and Airbus A-310 commander get $8,750 as salary.
They also get an annual bonus of $12,000, $13,000 and $15,000 on completion of one, two and three/four years in service respectively.
In addition, the company spends up to Rs7,500 per day to accommodate them in hotels and provide chauffeur-driven AC cars for non-flying duties as well.