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Air India goes for hiring as employees protest 'leave without pay' policy

Adding insult to injury to employees as they protest what they call "a draconian" Leave Without Pay (LWP) policy going up to five years, Air India is on a recruitment drive to hire new people.

Air India Express has put out an advertisement to hire in the finance and medical services department. The general principle is that if a company is laying off people and sending them on long leave without pay, then it does not hire fresh personnel.

In the advertisement, Air India Express has invited applications from Indian citizens (wherever domiciled) for the posts on a fixed term contract basis.

The positions in the medical services department include Chief Medical Officer and Senior Assistant, Medical.

The positions open for hiring in the Finance Department include Deputy Chief of Finance, Manager-Finance and Deputy Manager-Finance.

Interested and eligible candidates have been asked to submit their applications within 15 days of this advertisement.

This will add fuel to the fire as employees across the board from pilots to service engineers are protesting pay cuts and Leave Without Pay in Air India. The company is also on the block for privatization.

Air India has justified the cut in allowances of existing employees by citing the precarious financial position due to Covid 19.

Air India said in a tweet: "There has been no reduction in the Basic pay, DA and HRA of any category of employees. The rationalization of allowances had to be implemented on account of the difficult financial condition of the airline that were exacerbated by COVID-19."

The pilots have questioned this claim and said that this is a devious plan to ensure a minuscule pay cut for senior AI officials. Basic Pay, HRA and DA constitutes 80 per cent of Gross Pay for senior AI officials.

"By ‘rationalizing' the allowances only, pilots and cabin crew are hit worst as it forms 80 per cent of our gross pay. Doesn't the difficult financial condition of the airline warrant a contribution from the management too based on their actual cost to the company or just flying crew alone?" the pilots said in the letter.

Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) and Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) have accused Air India of spreading "deliberate misinformation on social media" and questioned the "duplicitous" tweets by Air India calling them "misleading".

"Air India has recently posted some duplicitous tweets that are misleading the general public", the pilots associations said.

"Recent decisions of the Air India Board regarding rationalization of staff cost were reviewed in a meeting at @MoCA_goi this evening. The meeting reiterated that unlike other carriers which have laid off large numbers of their employees, no employee of Air India will be laid off," said the Air India tweet.

To this the pilots responded in a letter to Aruna Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director, Corporate Affairs, Air India, "A lay off means settlement of arrears, gratuity, PF and retrenchment compensation by law. Management is trying to dodge this by introducing Compulsory Leave without Pay for up to 5 years to send employees on exile.".