Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pilots to Sue for Salary Cuts

Kingfisher pilots to sue airline for salary cuts
In a move that could have far-reaching ramifications for industrial relations across sectors, Kingfisher Airlines pilots, numbering over 600, have decided to sue the loss-making carrier for cutting their salaries. The pilots are alleging breach of contract by the airline on assured flying hours, which have been slashed from the contractual 70 hours a month to 55.

"Hence, there have been huge pay cuts to the extent of 25-30%. We have decided to approach the Bombay High Court since our salary structure is altered vis- -vis our contract documents," a senior pilot with the airline told FE. Kingfisher recently reported a Q3 net loss of Rs 626 crore. It has also reduced 21% of its domestic flights following a downturn in air travel.

Rival Jet Airways had last November asked some 700 of its pilots to accept a 25% salary cut. The pilots refused outright. Jet also had to reinstate over 700 employees that it sacked in October after much publicised demonstrations. The company has since marginally reduced salaries across the board.

On condition of anonymity a Kingfisher official said, "The airline is now following an international norm of productivity-linked compensation structures and, hence, there is a revision of salaries. However, even if a pilot flies for 55 hours, there would be a difference of only 4.5% in his gross salary and not 25-30% as claimed by the pilots."

Kingfisher pilots earn upwards of Rs 3 lakh a month, excluding perks, with the senior-most making over Rs 5 lakh. The airline has a fleet of more than 75 aircraft, with 570 flights daily connecting 74 cities. The salary cuts come at a time when the airline has scaled up its international operations.

The pilots had recently met senior company officials to register their protest against the salary cuts. A senior pilot flying wide-bodied aircraft said, "When we met the HR head, we were told there had been a pay revision as fallout of less flying hours." The pilots do not plan to strike work to press for their demands at this time.

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