Concerns of other staff

Published : Jun 29, 2012 00:00 IST

While the current agitation has brought to the fore the issue of career progression of pilots, the working conditions of non-technical staff, which are equally poor, are being forgotten. The Air Corporation Employees' Union (ACEU), which represents about 17,000 non-technical staff of the merged airlines including ground handlers, check-in agents, handlers, and sweepers, made a representation to the Justice Dharmadhikari Committee highlighting pension and career progression issues.

Arun Kumar Malhotra, general secretary of the ACEU, explained how thousands of retired employees were not able to avail themselves of the benefits of pension despite contributing money regularly to an employees' contributory pension scheme. The scheme, launched in 1994, was to benefit retiring employees.

All employees were required to contribute compulsorily to the pension fund corpus. In 2002, the corpus was changed into a contribution-defined one. Despite regular contributions by employees, an employee who retires today with an average deposit of about Rs.4-5 lakh only receives a pension of Rs.50 per month, Malhotra said.

Among workmen categories, the pension deductions go up to 10 per cent of the average take-home salaries, he said. Employees who retired between 1998 and 2002 did not get any pension, while those who retired after 2002 got Rs.100 a month, he said.

Also, archaic rules decide the career progression of non-pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines in the merged company. This has often resulted in an individual working in the same category for about 15 years. The non-technical cadre is divided into grades 7/8, 9, 10/12 according to seniority.

Only 30 per cent of the total standard workforce of grade 7/8 is promoted to grade 9 and only 15 per cent of the total workforce of grade 9 is promoted to grade 10/12. This excludes a large section of employees from career progression. Following the merger in 2007, a new grade of 9A was introduced in between grades 9 and 10/12 without addressing concerns of career progression. In the erstwhile Air India, a maximum limit of 19 years was introduced for promotion to the grade of assistant manager or 10/12. However, the promotion policy for the erstwhile Indian Airlines non-technical staff did not change.

The non-technical staff are also unhappy with the excessive productivity-linked incentive (PLI) paid to pilots, at a time when the company is not making profits. Malhotra alleged that while the PLI was 50-70 per cent of the basic pay for ground staff and cabin crew, senior categories of pilots and co-pilots drew almost 900 per cent of their basic pay in PLIs.

Sagnik Dutta
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