Air India unions challenge in HC pay cut due to pandemic



Air India employee unions have moved the Bombay High Court against the airline's decision to slash allowances, which form a major part of salary, by ten per cent because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Air India Aircraft Engineers Association, All India Service Engineers Association and Indian Pilots Guild filed a writ petition in the high court earlier this week against the national carrier and its subsidiary Air India Engineering Services Ltd.

The petition, filed through advocates Jane Cox and Karishma Rao, said that on March 20, Air India announced 10 per cent deduction for three months from the allowance package of all employees except the cabin crew on account of the impact of coronavirus outbreak.

The plea pointed out that on the same day the Union government issued an advisory asking all private and public firms not to reduce salaries or sack employees due to the pandemic.

"On March 29, the home secretary issued an advisory under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, directing that all employers pay wages to their employees without making any deductions for the period their establishments remain closed on account of the lockdown," said advocate Jane Cox.

The deduction announced by Air India was therefore not only illegal under industrial laws but it also violated the Union government''s order, the petition said, demanding that the pay cut be declared as illegal.

It also urged the court to direct Air India not to make any further deductions, and reimburse the amount deducted for March pending final disposal of the case.

The petitioners had also written to the Ministry of Civil Aviation protesting against the deduction but they were to receive any response, the plea said.

"The management has called a skeletal staff on duty on some days each week and has directed all employees to stay at home and remain available on phone in case of any emergency. We are all willing to resume work but are unable to do so because of the pandemic," the petition further said.

The deduction of wages for March was "especially unjust" as most employees worked from March 1 to March 24, which was prior to national lockdown coming into effect, it said.

Allowances form 50 to 70 per cent of salaries of petitioners while remaining amount includes basic pay and other components, the petition said.

The court is likely to hear the matter next week.
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