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Pilot guild alleges bias towards expat pilots

The loss-making airline (Jet Airways) is needlessly spending crores on two placement agencies for hiring foreign pilots since the last five years, reports Soubhik Mitra.

mumbai Updated: Nov 05, 2009 00:46 IST
Soubhik Mitra

The loss-making airline (Jet Airways) is needlessly spending crores on two placement agencies for hiring foreign pilots since the last five years.

This remark was made by the seven-month-old Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG), one of the two recognised Air India pilots unions, one day after Jet Airways decided not to renew the contracts of 25 expat pilots.

The airline has denied the claim calling it ‘absurd’.

The union claims that at a time when the airline is riding losses worth Rs 7,200 and asking its 31,000 employees to take a pay cut it is has been paying $2,000 (Rs 93,812) commission on each of its 180 foreign pilots hired through Rishworth Aviation and Parc aviation both foreign placement agency.

The expense that adds up to approximately Rs 1.7 crore a month is being spent in addition to pilot salaries of Rs 6.5 lakh each.

“Why does the airline need to involve foreign placement agencies to hire pilots? All it needs to do is put up advertisements on the website,” said an IPG spokesperson.

Contrary to the allegation the airline said the expats pilots for Boeing 777s the latest fleet come cheaper than Indian pilots. “Expat pilots are hired for $14,000 (Rs 6.5 lakh), $700 (Rs 32,833) out this is the commission paid to the placement agency and rest comprises hotel accommodation,” said Jitendra Bhargava, spokesperson, Air India.

He added, “Hiring the services of a placement agency is necessary to maintain uniformity of salaries.”

Indian pilots working for the national carrier are upset because the airline, citing heavy losses, has been insisting on a salary cut of up to 70 per cent whereas the perks and emoluments paid to foreigners remain untouched and are paid on time.

“None of the existing contracts are being negotiated although each contract has clause for termination at one month’s notice,” added the IPG spokesperson.

The pilot union also claims that foreign pilots get other privileges like nine days holidays a month and free business class travel unlike their Indian counterparts who have been asked to travel economy.