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Unfair taxes and policies’ by PIA management forcing pilots to stay on ground

Pilots working for the Pakistan International Airline have announced unanimously that they will stop flying if the national airline’s management continues to implement ‘unfair and unjust’ taxation policy on their salaries.
The country’s national airline has been in the doldrums due to management, administrative and financial issues and this move by the pilots was the latest blow to the already troubled organization. Like most of its current problems, this particular move was also of PIA Management’s own doing.

Pilots have complained that they are charged inflated amount of taxes on their salaries – so much that in most cases their ‘take home’ amount is much less than the tax they have to returned to the organization. The situation is a stark contrast to some of the Private airlines of the country. For instance, according to sources, two other national airlines’ pilots only pay Rs.19,000 to Rs.30,000 on their salaries whereas a PIA pilot pays a remarkable average of Rs.200,00 to Rs.350,000 PM tax on a similar salary scale ie 10 times more than Private airline’s Pilots.

One of PIA’S Pilot said; “These are our jobs. We don’t work hard to pay back the government only. We have families to run, kids to look after. If more than half of our hard earned salaries, which we earn staying away from home mostly, goes down in tax, what will we take home? How will we run our houses? Enough is enough. We will not fly until the taxation system is made fair and justifiable, when we try to leave airline, they don’t release us at the same time.”

In response to the situation, Pakistan Air Line Pilots’ Association President, Captain Amir Hashmi said: “I am trying to solve this situation amicably by talking to my colleagues and convincing them to continue flying but the PIA management is not interested in finding a fair solution to this. They have failed to clarify the taxation policy and have created a lot of confusion among the pilots. I can only stop the movement to a certain extent but by the looks of things, it has gone too far now. We need a fair solution to the matter immediately by either returning the over taxed money or charging the same from private airline’s Pilots, so that we do not feel the step brotherly treatment from Govt. And management.”

“To make matters worse, the board of directors have given a go ahead to issue contracts to those pilots who have contacts and are in the good books of high officials against PALPA'S agreement with management.
“Internationally, pilots are either given term contracts or hired permanently. Only one system is followed in contrast to PIA where both are being done based on favouritism. This situation gives the fair pilots all the more reason to be agitated by the current situation.”

Captain Hashmi said that despite PIA’s frailties, PALPA has continued to offer their support to the airline. The association plans to offer the management to reduce their principal office bearers’ and management pilots’ allowances by 25%.

“We planned this goodwill gesture only to show to the upper management that despite their unfair and unjust stances against us, we still care for the organization which used to be a matter of pride for us. Unfortunately, the top management does not bother reciprocating the goodwill and continues to create problems not just for the pilots but also for the airline as a whole. It’s a woeful situation.”

According to reports, PIA has suffered accumulative losses of more than Rs 200 billion owing to several operational and administrative deficiencies. Very recently, the national carrier also had to return four of its aircrafts after their lease ended, but interestingly; immediately after releasing the wet leased aircrafts, the national airline brought three of its technically grounded aircrafts on line.

“This move was very strange as, if this was possible in the first place, then why did PIA lease the foreign aircrafts as ‘wet lease’ is unviable for any established airline?” said Captain Hashmi.

Also, despite the national airline’s woeful financial health, it hired two additional general managers adding to its already over staffed management of 16 Directors, 44 GMs and 92 DGMs. It is reported that the average salaries of these general managers are up to Rs.1,800,000 to Rs.2,200,000.The rules designed by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PEPRA), the body that legislates public hiring, n state that No openings can be filled without an advertisement.

“The hiring of the GMs was done against the rules and only to appease those who were in the good books of the top management of the PIA. The hiring was not done on the basis of merit while Planes are running empty on once the most lucrative routes, mainly due to cost cutting measures on account of Revenue paying customers only,” said Captain Hashmi. 

If the national airline can spend such massive amounts of money to hire general managers without any airline experience, the question arises about their implementation of strange and unjustified tax policies for the pilots, who are supposedly the airline’s biggest strategic and operational assets. 

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