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Desi-videshi row may ground Air India
Published on 28 Oct. 2009 10:27 PM IST
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The current attempts at cost cutting, including wages, in cash-strapped Air India-Indian Airlines have now taken a desi versus videshi turn. Pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines have threatened to go on strike if expats get paid in full again, before the desis get their flying allowances -that account for 75%-85% of the total pay -of last two months. IA pilots met the airline management in Mumbai on Tuesday and told them that their flying allowances for August had not been paid and September’s allowance would also become due on November 1. On the other hand, they pointed out that the 200-odd expat pilots in AI, AI Express and Alliance Air are regularly getting their $14-15,000 (Rs 6.5-7 lakh) pay every month without any cut or delay. ‘‘If in November, the management again pays the expats without giving us our dues, there will be a strike. An Indian IA commander gets about Rs 2.5 lakh per month as flying allowance while the basic salary is up to Rs 15,000. For two months, this allowance has not been paid. IA has 900-1,000 pilots. If in this situation, expats get their full pay before we get our dues, there will be a chakkajaam,’’ said Captain V K Bhalla, who spearheaded the recent pilots’ strike. He also met the management on Tuesday. Pilots met AI CMD Arvind Jadhav and joint secretaries of aviation ministry, Bharat Bhushan and Prasant Sukul, to discuss the cost-cutting plans. They gave out alleged instances of loss being caused to the airline even now by upgrades and exemption of excess baggage payment for free. The AI management has to work out some wage-cut agreement with unions before Friday when they meet a GoM headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to get a bailout from the government.

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