Air India (AI) operations were severely hit on Saturday after a section of pilots failed to turn up for work protesting against unpaid salaries and allowances for the last five months.
More than 70 domestic and short-haul international flights were cancelled as almost 60 pilots did not report for work. PLI constitutes around 80% of an employee’s salary.
AI management, sources said, relented as there was a threat of other employees such as engineers and cabin crew joining the agitating pilots by Sunday.
Unlike previous occasions, pilots did not proceed on a strike or report sick. They simply wrote to their station heads or made entries in logbooks that they were under “severe financial stress”.
“I have not been paid my emoluments for five months. I am under financial and mental stress. I wont be able to work till my dues are cleared,” wrote most of them.
The protest, which began in Delhi on Saturday morning, had spread to various stations across the country by evening.
“We will neither give a strike notice nor are we reporting sick. No other government department is being treated the way they are treating us. If they don’t pay us, how can they expect us to work,” said a pilot.
There have been three strike in as many years in AI, the last being the pilot strike in 2010, which cost the company more than Rs 200 crore.
“...while it is not possible to give an exact date, management will endeavour to pay at least two months’ pending flying allowance/PLI by January 20,” the management said in a written assurance to pilots.
“...We understand their problem but AI’s finances are in a bad condition,” said civil aviation minister Ajit Singh.
Singh said he would meet the finance minister on the issue next week. “By the end of next week, maybe we will be able to pay...I won’t say all the salaries will be paid but most of it should be paid.”