Air India Employees Unions move Bombay High Court challenging 10% pay cut amid COVID-19 Lockdown
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Air India Employees Unions move Bombay High Court challenging 10% pay cut amid COVID-19 Lockdown

A circular intimating the decision to cut allowances by 10% for March 2020 stated that the decision had been made pursuant to the "financial crisis" and the health crisis of COVID-19.

Shruti Mahajan

Air India employees have moved the Bombay High Court challenging Air India's move to deduct wages (allowances) of their employees for the month of March this year by 10% amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

The plea has been moved by the Air India Aircraft Engineers' Association, the Indian Pilots Guild, and the All India Service Engineers Association.

A circular intimating the decision to cut allowances by 10% for March 2020 stated that the decision had been made pursuant to the "financial crisis" and the health crisis of COVID-19.

The Unions point out that this decision is in violation of the government's directives against wage/salary deduction by the employers during the period of lockdown.

"It is in blatant violation of the directives issued by the Government of India (especially that dt. 29.03.2020) prohibiting employers from making any pay cuts during the COVID-19 Pandemic & lockdown regardless of whether or not establishments are operational."
Petition

In its order dated March 29, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had mandated that all employers ensure that the salaries and wages for all the employees is disbursed without any cuts, despite the lockdown. Air India's decision to slash employees' pay by way of a March 29 office order goes against this directive of the MHA, it is submitted.

Additionally, while the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25, the wage deduction of the employees labelled "COVID-19 paycut" also takes into account the days prior to this lockdown, that is, from March 1 to March 24.

Despite the crisis, the employees are willing to work and there exists a master-servant relationship that binds the employer to pay the salary or wages in full to its employees, the pleas aver.

It is also highlighted that the office order regarding the paycuts came on the same day as the Labour Ministry's order directing employers not to terminate services or reduce the pay of its employees.

Therefore, the employees' associations and unions have sought for a direction from the Court for Air India to make the payment of wages and allowances in full for all the employees, not only for the month of March, but also for April and the coming months. No deductions in the name of COVID-19 should be made, the pleas pray.

The petititons are filed through Advocates Jane Cox and Karishma Rao.

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