New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) National carrier Air Indias move to cut employee strength through a new scheme before its sale is snowballing into a major political controversy as MPs from the CPI and the Congress have written to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, seeking withdrawal of Air Indias new policy on sending employees on ‘leave without pay for up to five years.

Binoy Viswam, Rajya Sabha MP and Leader of CPI Parliamentary Party, in a letter to Puri said that the salary for the roughly 20,000 employees of Air India for the month of June 2020 has still not been disbursed.

“As you can imagine, this non-payment of salary is causing great strife in the lives of the employees and requires immediate redressal,” he said.

Further, a notification has been issued which states that employees can be sent on leave without pay for a duration of 6 months to 2 years, with the possibility of extending it to up to 5 years.

“It is appalling that such policy decisions are being made by Air India without the slightest care for the wellbeing and lives of its employees. In the name of efficiency, draconian labour practices are being promulgated by Air India and it is completely unacceptable,” Viswam said.

The CPI MP has sought the release of salaries and withdrawal of the leave without pay policy.

“I therefore, urge you to use the power of your office to ensure that the salaries for all employees across Air India and all its subsidiaries, including Alliance Air, are paid immediately. The decision of Air India to introduce this policy of leave without pay must be immediately withdrawn. A pro-active step on your part will bring immense relief to these employees and their families,” he said.

Congress Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari said in a letter to Puri, “The new compulsory leave scheme is a shocking aberration and reeks of a use and throw policy by the airline, at a time when we as a nation should be celebrating our Covid heroes.”

“The compulsory leave scheme as I have understood from the circular is an arbitrary unbridled use of power and discretion and borders on unconstitutional use of discretionary powers,” he said.

“This kind of compulsory leave scheme, which is actually retrenchment by another name, has been unheard of in any PSU in Independent India,” Tewari added.

The Congress leader said that instead of restructuring Air India’s top heavy management, the government is hell bent on removing employees. Tewari said while the Prime Minister has asked all employers to take care of the employees during the Covid crisis, “his own Civil Aviation Ministry does not seem to be paying heed to him”.

–IANS

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