Dharmadhikari panel wants AI pilots' pay hikes, perks slashed

The Dharmadhikari committee set up to study pay scales and promotion policies in troubled national carrier Air India says in its report that salary increments should be minimised till the airline shows an operating profit.

The committee under retired Supreme Court judge Dharmadhikari was set up mainly to bring about parity in the pay scales of staff of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India, and bring about integration in human resources. The two airlines were merged in 2007; and ever since then there has been friction among the staff - particularly the flying crew. Indian Airlines pilots claim they are treated as junior step-brothers, while Air India pilots insist on maintaining their superior status.

The report, submitted to the civil aviation ministry on 30 January but made public only on Thursday, has recommended realigning the coveted perks known as performance-linked incentives to bring them in tune with government pay scales.

These incentives constitute up to 80 per cent of the take home pay of pilots and cabin crew. The committee said these perks were determined on the basis of the carrier's performance, which has now hit rock bottom. In fact the airline would have collapsed by now if it was not kept aloft on taxpayers' money.

The ministry and Air India management have formed a committee to look into the Dharmadhikari committee's report. The AI committee met for the first time on Thursday. It is headed by Syed Nasir Ali, director in the civil aviation ministry, and includes three airline officials.

The Dharmadhakari report also seeks rationalising of allowances paid to the original AI pilots, which differ from those paid to erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots.