Salary disparity: Biman pilots threaten to go on strike
Pilots of Biman Bangladesh Airlines vowed to wage bolder demonstration as authorities of the national flag carrier issued an order without addressing salary disparity between its pilots and other employees.
Bangladesh Airlines Pilots' Association (BAPA), an organisation of pilots of the national airliner, has sent a letter to Biman's Director of Flight Operations (DFO) setting a deadline -- July 30 -- to meet their demand and end disparity in salaries.
Talking to The Daily Star, BAPA President Captain Mahbubur Rahman said they handed over the letter on Monday.
In the letter, BAPA said if the decision to cut their salaries was not scrapped by July 30, they would no longer operate Biman flights.
Sources in Biman Bangladesh said that if the pilots decide not to fly, flights on the airline's most popular routes -- including Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dammam and Dubai -- might be cancelled.
Captain Mahbubur said the decision to cut all Biman employees' salaries, to reduce costs during the pandemic, has been withdrawn. "But the decision to cut salaries of pilots -- the frontliners during the pandemic -- was not withdrawn," he said.
In the letter, BAPA said since the onset of this pandemic, the pilots have fulfilled their duties with utmost sincerity and dedication.
"We have operated shuttle flights to many destinations. We have flown and discharged our duties as per the regulatory approved limit, even on a short 36-hour notice. Sadly, there was no recognition at all," BAPA said in its letter.
The pilots' organisation also said, "Instead of appreciation, we heard that Biman management, in a recent decision, decided to resume regular salaries of all employees except pilots.
"The pilot community of Biman is utterly shocked and frustrated after hearing this. As frontliners, we worked relentlessly during the pandemic amidst the fear of contracting Covid-19 and spreading it to our families," reads the letter.
BAPA said: "To continue our support for the national flag carrier and considering the overall scenario, BAPA executive committee would like to give concessions for flight as per regulatory approval initially till 30th July."
The BAPA president said that in the last year, 25 pilots were infected with Covid-19. Several pilots are still in the hospital with Covid-19.
He said that families of eight pilots contracted coronavirus. Many pilots did not even get a chance to ensure quarantine.
Captain Mahbubur Rahman said pilots had to go abroad and get coronavirus tests done with their own money. But even then, the airline did not withdraw its decision to cut their salaries.
Due to this discriminatory decision, the monthly salary of a senior pilot has been reduced to Tk 5 lakh, he noted.
"BAPA's executive committee will sit today to finalise its next course of action regarding its demonstration against the discriminatory decision," he also said.
Biman administration, in an order, yesterday withdrew the decision of cutting employee salaries, which will come into effect from July.
According to the previous order, it was decided to deduct 10 percent of employee salaries on pay scales 6 to 8, and 15 percent for those who were above pay scale 9.
According to the same admin order, cockpit crews (pilots) having a service age of 5 years will receive 15 percent reduced salary, those with service age between 5 and 10 years will get 20 percent reduced salary, and those with over 10 years will get 40 percent reduced salary. Salary cuts of pilots will continue, according to the new order.
"This is injustice, discriminatory, and humiliating for us," said a senior pilot of Biman.
Expressing their grievance, pilots of Biman Bangladesh said the authorities did not even bother to discuss with them before taking such a major decision.
State Minister for Civil Aviation M Mahbub Ali recently told media that due to curtailing of salary, a senior pilot now gets Tk 3.48 lakh which was Tk 8.61 lakh before the pandemic.