Friday, July 15, 2022

Sick leave protests and pay cuts: The new airline saga

Earlier this month, cabin crew members of low-cost carrier IndiGo went on a mass 'sick leave' on July 2, ostensibly going for an Air India recruitment drive instead of checking into work. A week later, the maintenance staff of the airline decided to take a mass sick leave in protest against low salaries.

The incidents have been a major source of embarrassment for both IndiGo and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), both of whom have attempted to assuage the employees - and here is what we know about the incidents:

Aside from the cabin and maintenance crew of IndiGo, a significant section of Go First aircraft maintenance technicians went on sick leaves in the last week to protest their low salaries.

A few days after the IndiGo protest, PTI reported that some of Go First's technicians also went on sick leaves, having written e-mails to the airline's management asking it to increase their salaries.

No other airline has reported a mass sick leave so far.

In April, IndiGo had suspended a few pilots who were planning to organise a strike on Tuesday to protest against the pay cuts that were implemented during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pilots were planning the strike in protest against the company offering ESOPs to top management cadre dating back from 2019, and offering just a restoration of 8 per cent salary and a conditional assurance of a further 6.5 per cent restoration in November, against a pay cut of as much as 30 per cent in the height of the pandemic.

During the April incident, IndiGo CEO Ronjoy Dutta had said that raising salaries is a difficult and thorny issue but IndiGo will constantly review and adjust wages based on its profitability and the competitive environment.

Dutta had cited the rising cost of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) as a direct pain point for the company's operational costs. "The general perception is that we can simply pass through the cost of higher fuel by charging more from the customer. The truth, however, is that as we raise fares fewer people choose to travel, so beyond a certain point higher ticket prices actually result in a decline of revenues," he had said.

As for the protests in July, the company said that it will "rationalise" the salaries of maintenance staff and remove "anomalies cause by the pandemic."

14/07/22 Deccan Herald

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