ECONOMYNEXT – Lower dollar exchange rate used to calculate salaries in one of the key concerns raised by SriLankan Airlines pilots who have started a “Fly for Roster” campaign where they will not work on off days demanding quick solutions to their grievances, industry sources said.
The Airline Pilot’s Guild of Sri Lanka (ALPGSL) commenced what they call “Fly the Roster” campaign on February 4 which the ALPGSL cited “as a result of grievances not being resolved as assured by the Airline management in December 2021”.
Fly the Roster effectively means that no pilots will be available standby in the event of a duty pilot falls sick or go on a sudden leave.
The current exchange rate is a key issue in the industrial action.
SriLankan pilots are among few people in the country who are protected via dollar salaries from the money printing of the central bank, which leads to depreciation and high domestic inflation.
The central bank has declared the exchange rate to be 200 to the US dollar while injecting liquidity to keep rates down as the economy recovered, leading to forex shortages and parallel exchange rates.
“The pilots are paid less about 189 rupees per dollar which is less than the central bank fixed rate. Also the management has cut down pilot’s salaries during the lockdowns and it has not reversed this decision,” a source familiar with the pilot’s grievances told EconomyNext.
“So pilots’ salaries are reduced by both salary cut as well as paying a lower than market dollar exchange rate. On top of that, they also have cut down a lot allowances.”
Sri Lanka started printing money in 2020 to keep interest rates down in a bid to create a ‘production economy’, but the move has created severe monetary instability and labour unrest is rising.
A similar situation was seen in the 1980s, as money was printed and the currency depreciated creating strikes and social unrest.
“Some of the pertinent issues included contractual violations on the part of the management,” the ALPGSL said in a statement without elaborating the grievances.
Download : Pilots-Guild-Statment
During the Coronavirus pandemic SriLankan pilots took a cut in salary and benefits, along with most other private companies, which they say has not been reversed as indicated.
Industry sources told EconomyNext that a case had been filed in Labour Tribunal over the salary cut and the SriLankan management promised to do reverse from the start of next financial year starting on April 1.
However the management promised to address their grievances by January 31 when they launched a similar campaign in mid December, but it has failed to stick to its promise, according to sources linked to pilots.
The ALPGSL also has demanded to reverse some of the recent changes including probationary period for pilots as their grievances, the sources said.
An official at SriLankan Airlines, responding to EcononyNext’s query on pilot grievances said the company had nothing to do with dollar conversion rate.
“They (pilots) should deal it with the central bank. We have been paying their dues in dollars. It’s true that there is a salary cut and the management has promised to reverse it from the next financial year,” the official said.
“Despite their Fly by Roster campaign, there is no issue with the flights. Most of these pilots earn a monthly salary of more than 1 million rupees.”
Since October 28, the central bank has ordered to convert all dollar inflows into bank accounts of all Sri Lankans creating unhappiness and taking away their ability to protect themselves from monetary expropriation through depreciation.
There have been calls to reform the central bank’s governing law to block the ability of activist central bankers to print money and generate monetary and economic instability. (Colombo/Feb15/2022)