The arrears to be paid to the 27,000-odd staff of Air India are estimated to be Rs 1,200 crore.
A union of Air India pilots on Wednesday asked the government to clear their salary arrears before the airline is privatised. The Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) wrote a
letter to Civil Aviation Minister A Gajapati Raju demanding the release of their "illegally withheld 25 per cent flying allowances and related allowances before disinvestment and/or privatisation.".
The national carrier had resorted to salary cuts in 2012 for its employees as part of its turnaround plan. Since then, arrears have been accumulating even as certain sections of employees accepted revised pay scales.
The letter by the pilots' union comes in the backdrop of the Union Cabinet approving disinvestment of Air India and appointing a group of ministers to chalk out the future course of action for the airline, which is saddled with a debt of Rs 48,876.81 crore as on March 31.
"We make a humble appeal to the government to issue orders for release of our illegally withheld 25 per cent flying allowances and related allowances before disinvestment and/or privatisation so that the new management can start with clean financial statements," says the ICPA letter.
The ICPA, which claims to have more than 1,000 members, represents the pilots of narrow-bodied planes of Air India. The arrears to be paid to the 27,000-odd staff of Air India that includes pilots and cabin crew are estimated to be around Rs 1,200 crore. Out of the total amount, about Rs 400 crore is due for pilots, according to a senior pilot.
The union, however, said that they were not against the decision of privatisation per se. "We are not averse to the decision of the government as we are confident that the government will act keeping in mind the best interest of the airline which has served the nation for decades," the letter said.
Fearing loss of jobs, other employees' unions of Air India have warned of large scale protests if the government went ahead with privatisation of the airline.
Raju, in an recent interview to PTI, had said that he thinks employees would still continue even after privatisation because of their technical know-how. (Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)