Air India management's proposal to slash the pay package of over 30,000 employees in a bid to reduce costs has come under attack from a parliamentary committee, which has sought payment of all arrears with effect from January 1997.
In its latest report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture noted that the prime reasons for Air India's losses were not the employees, but "misplaced" policies of the government.
"The Committee feels that employees are being made scapegoat and cut in their salaries and PLI have become tools in the hands of management in the name of cost cutting/ restructuring," it said.
"Since all parameters are laid down for PLI payment, the Committee does not see any scope for reduction in PLI of employees," the panel headed by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.
In a strongly-worded report, it said that "making the employees suffer (by not getting their arrear payments) due to no fault of theirs can hardly be justified."
Referring to erstwhile Indian Airlines' employees pay revision case, the panel said it felt that "had the wages been revised in 1997 itself, the IA workers would have now been getting what was due to them. However, it is surprising that the revision was delayed for ten years."
"The Committee, therefore, recommends that the arrears to all the employees be sanctioned with effect from January 1, 1997, and paid appropriately."
Air India has proposed slashing of its staff's PLI, arguing that it needs to cut costs and losses to avail government funding, but this is being opposed by the employees. A Board sub-committee Board has been set up to examine the issue.
In its report, the parliamentary committee said "the misplaced government policies and priorities are the main reason for the losses."
At the same time, the Committee recommended that the standards adopted for payment of PLI should be reasonable, just and equitable.
"The employees should not feel that one category of employees is paid at the expenses of another category of employees. A total harmonization of PLI may be worked out in consultation with various Unions and Associations," it said.
Observing that the employees were efficient and punctual and withrawing their perks would be unjustified, it said they have given 65 per cent on-time performance.
"This definitely shows that the employees are sincere, efficient and punctual and they should not be punished by withdrawing their salaries and allowances," the report said.
The Committee, however, said it understood the compulsions of the NACIL management to reduce costs but asked it to ensure that further losses were not incurred due to strike by the employees leading to flight disruptions.
"The Committee recommends that the management should find out a via media to overcome the situation by calibrating the withdrawal of PLI in consultation with the Employees’ Unions," the report said.