Three employee associations of national carrier Air India have filed writ petitions before the Bombay High Court challenging the decision by Air India to impose a 10% cut in the monthly wage packet (allowances) of pilots, engineers and other staff members.
The Indian Pilots' Guild, Air India Aircraft Engineers' Association and Air India Service Engineers' Association contended that the said deductions for the month of March is illegal as it is in violation of orders passed by Central Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 prohibiting any wage deduction during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the deductions made were under the head "COVID &19 Pay Cut". The same 10% cut was even made from the days worked prior to the enforcement of the lockdown (between March 1 to March 24).
The petitioners contend that the said deductions are in blatant violation of the directives issued by the Government of India through the Ministry of Home Affairs prohibiting employers from making any pay cuts during the COVID-19 Pandemic & lockdown regardless of whether or not establishments are operational.
"The Order of the Ministry of Home Affairs explicitly makes the District Magistrate/DCP personally liable for implementation of the measures and obligations directed in the Order;
That even otherwise, the master-servant relationship subsists; the member employees are willing to work and thus the Respondent employer is bound in law to pay their monthly wages."
The Petitioner members discovered from their wage slips, that the 10% deduction has been made in their monthly wage packet for the month of March 2020 (which was paid on April 18, 2020 instead of April 1, 2020) which even included the days worked prior to the enforcement of the lockdown. Petition clarifies that monthly allowances include Basic Pay and House Rent Allowance, Variable Dearness Allowance -
"It is most pertinent to note that for the member Pilots, as a licensed category of employees employed by Air India a very large percentage of the total wage package is paid through allowances – averaging around 70% of the total monthly wage package. The Petitioner was shocked to learn about the 10% deduction through their wage slips without any prior intimation, consultation or consent to the arbitrary step."
Only the cabin crew has been exempted from the said order of pay cut which will last for three months.
The petitions have been filed by Advocates Jane Cox and Karishma Rao. Representations have also been made before the Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri and Rajiv Bansal, CMD, Air India.
Petitioners have sought directions to Air India to withdraw the order of pay cut and refund of the allowance deducted in March. Moreover, directions have been sought to prohibit Air India from deducting the salaries of employees in the name of Covid-19.
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