A parliamentary committee has criticised the national carrier Air India for focusing more on rationalising manpower costs, which is lower than expenses on other heads like fuel and picturing them as "a villain" behind the plight of the airline.
Observing that as many as 34 per cent of the airline's cost is incurred on fuel and only 16.2 on manpower, the Committee on Public Undertakings (Copu) asked the ailing Air India how much of cost will it be able to optimise by merely rationalising manpower costs.
The Copu, headed by senior Congress leader V Kishore Chandra Deo, feels that this issue should be given a "serious look because whatever statements we see in the newspapers, even in the last couple of weeks, it is hinging on manpower cost.... Manpower is being made a villain".
This is "creating a kind of situation which is also demoralising your workforce," the panel told National Aviation Company of India (NACIL), the holding company of the national carrier.
The Copu also recommended that to make the merger of the two airlines effective, NACIL should integrate the employees of the erstwhile Air-India and Indian Airlines on the basis of scales of pay and not their designation to ensure there is "no loss of emoluments and feelings of alienation" among the employees of these organisations.
Even the aviation ministry acknowledged before the Copu "manpower integration has not happened. There are a lot of anomalies between IA and AI workers at different levels. This is causing tremendous heartburn," the report said, adding these information was given to them by civil aviation secretary M Madhavan Nambiar.
Keeping this in mind, the Copu felt that "as far as possible, it may be ensured that there is no loss emoluments and a feeling of alienation amongst the employees of the two organisations".
The panel also observed that, "this obvious difficulty, which should have been foreseen at the outset, did not seem to have occurred to those who worked out the merger process."
Regarding anomalies, the airline acknowledges that while pilots from Air India operating abroad are given foreign exchange in advance for their expenses, the pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines are asked to spend their money and get it reimbursed.