Panel moots trimming of Air India staff's incentives

The Dharmadhikari committee set up a year ago to streamline salaries of Air India's almost 30,000 employees and remove pay discrepancies between original Air India employees and those joining it after its absorption of the erstwhile Indian Airlines on Tuesday submitted its report to the government.

Five years after the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India, the company still does not have a uniform pay scale and well-defined career paths for different groups of employees of the two organisations. Justice Dharmadhikari, a former Supreme Court judge, was appointed to head a committee to resolve the issues.

The contents of the report submitted to civil aviation minister Ajit Singh have not been made public, but reports citing sources suggest that the committee has recommended pruning pilots' salaries and benchmarking them to the private sector.

"I haven't seen it, but we will examine the recommendations carefully first. It's not something that can be implemented immediately because it involves many people and a lot of negotiations will follow. But we will ensure doing whatever it takes to bring Air India back on track," Singh said.

The national carrier has around 1,800 pilots, who are paid 10-15 per cent more than those at private sector rivals Jet Air and IndiGo. They account for almost four-fifths of the total wage bill, with some getting over Rs1 crore a year.

Justice Dharmadhikari had earlier this month told The Economic Times that the committee's focus was to align Air India's salary structure to legal parameters. The heavily loss-making airline is in violation of salary guidelines set for state-owned enterprises, which allow only profitable public sector undertakings to give performance-linked incentives to employees.