Monday, June 16, 2014

Pilots to stop flying if Pakistan International Airline implements ‘unfair unjust’ taxation policy

KARACHI: Pilots working for Pakistan International Airline (PIA) have unanimously announced they would stop flying if the national airline’s management continued 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.

ike most of its current problems, this particular move was also of PIA management’s own doing.

Pilots have complained they were charged inflated amount of taxes on their salaries so much that in most cases their ‘take home’ amount was much less than the tax they have to return 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 private airlines pilots only pay Rs 19,000 to Rs 30,000 per month on their salaries whereas a PIA pilot pays a remarkable average of Rs 200,000 to Rs 350,000 per month tax on a similar salary scale i.e 10 times more than private airline’s pilots.

One of PIA’S pilot said, “These are our jobs. We do not 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 goes down in tax, what will we take home.”
We will not fly until the taxation system is made fair and justifiable, when we try to leave airline, they do not release us at the same time.

In response to the situation, President Air Line Pilots’ Association (PALPA) Captain Amir Hashmi said, “I am trying to solve this situation amicably by talking to my colleagues and convincing them to continue flying but 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.

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 we do not feel the step brotherly treatment from government and management.

To make matters worse, the board of directors has 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 favoritism.

Captain Hashmi said 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 percent. 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.

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 had to return four of its aircraft after their lease ended, but interestingly immediately after releasing the wet leased aircraft, the national airline brought three of its technically grounded aircraft on line. 

This move was very strange as, if this was possible in the first place, then why did PIA lease the foreign aircraft as ‘wet lease’ is unviable for any established airline, said 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 general managers and 92 deputies. It is reported the average salaries of these general managers are up to Rs 1.80 million to Rs 2.20 million. The rules designed by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PEPRA), the body that legislates public hiring, stated no openings could be filled without an advertisement.

The hiring of the general managers 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 Hashmi.


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