Pilots of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Monday threatened to go on a strike and suspend operations of the financially crippled national flag carrier if taxes on their salaries are not revised downwards immediately.
The threat comes just days after the government proposed a change in the income tax regime on the flying allowance of the pilots, meeting their expectations of addressing a long pending issue.
Yet the pilots under the leadership of Pakistan Air Line Pilots Association (Palpa) Captain Amir Hashmi think otherwise.
“Pilots working for PIA have announced unanimously that they will stop flying if the airline’s management continues to implement ‘unfair and unjust’ taxation policy on their salaries,” Palpa said in a statement.
PIA pilots claim they pay much more in taxes than their counterparts in private Pakistani airlines.
“I can only stop the movement to a certain extent but by the looks of things it has gone too far now,” the statement quoted Hashmi as saying.
“We need a fair solution to the matter immediately by either returning over taxed money or charging the same from private airlines’ pilots.”
In the Budget 2014-15, government imposed a 7.5% tax on the flying allowance that exceeds the basic salaries of pilots. The government says this is actually a relief.
The previous budget had included the flying allowance with all the other components of the salary and taxed it as per the applicable income tax slabs. Before that the flying allowance, which makes up major chunk of pilot’s salaries, was taxed at 2.5%.
PIA pilots, who constitute the most powerful union in the airline, have always contested that flying allowance should be treated in a way special way as a ‘risk allowance.’
Many times Palpa has even likened the allowance with the salaries paid to Pakistani soldiers stationed at Siachen Glacier considering the danger involved with the job.
Interestingly, in the entire statement, PIA pilots kept on lashing at the management, which has nothing to do with taxes – the contribution every citizen has to make to run the country.
“Pilots are trying to pressurise the government and that’s all,” said a senior PIA official. “They want the airline to bear part of the taxes.” That would basically mean more losses for the airline that will have to be paid from the national kitty.
Palpa said despite the airline’s poor health, the management has hired two additional general managers. The association also went on to accuse the management of wrongdoing for hiring aircraft on wet lease, which were recently returned.
A PIA spokesman said that the management was in negotiations with the pilots and it will give an appropriate answer later.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2014.