MS Dhoni’s salary will be delayed next month. Ditto VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, S. Sreesanth and R.P. Singh. Reason: These India cricketers are among the 200-odd sportspersons employed by Air India. Also on the list are India hockey captain Sandeep Singh and Jhulan Goswami who captains the national women’s cricket team.
“Frankly, we are still not clear on the status but yes, the salary has been deferred by a fortnight,” said Shekhar Guha, head of Air India Sports Promotion Board. An Air India hockey coach, who didn’t want to be named, also said: “By the 20th of every month we get PLI (Performance Linked Incentive), but we have not got it till now and there are rumours that we won’t be paid at all.”
Some of the big names mentioned above may not be affected by this but for sportspersons, present and former, surviving only on salaries this is a big blow. Neither Raina nor Sandeep, a deputy manager, said they knew about this. “I have been hearing about it in the news, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen. I will have to speak to my coach,” Raina, assistant manager, Commercial, said. Sandeep, however, felt if they did not get the salary on time would be a big problem.
Former India wicketkeeper and Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya said he would be hit by this but added that since “Air India takes care of its employees and this is a crisis, I urge all my colleagues to stand by it.”
In Mumbai, Bimal Ghosh, coach of the Air India football team which plays in the I-League, said training hasn’t stopped despite the announcement.
Company spokesman Jitender Bhargava said sportspersons, if hired as permanent staff, are usually recruited as assistant-managers. Their educational qualification too matters, he said. “We don’t employ sportspersons as brand ambassadors, but spot them young and groom them. So, their salaries are not higher than that of the top level managers,” he said.
As of now, the loss-making airline has formed a four-member committee comprising members from finance and personnel departments to look into its salary structure. Air India employs 31,000 people and has an annual wage bill of about Rs 3,000 crore. Its cumulative loss is about Rs 5,300 crore.
Air India has an annual sports budget of approximately Rs 4 crore and officials said, as of now there are no plans to curtail that.