5 top officials draw full salaries
A significant number of Biman Bangladesh Airlines employees are still disgruntled as the national flag carrier is yet to normalize the salaries and benefits of all its staff.
The frustration of the employees grew after reports emerged that five top officials of the airline, including Managing Director and CEO Mokabbir Hossain, had continued to draw full salaries throughout the pandemic.
Biman had cut the salaries and benefits of most of its employees to cope with the loss of revenue from global lockdowns to prevent a transmission of Covid-19. Salaries were initially slashed 10-20%, and later by a massive 70%.
Following the resumption of travel on some domestic and international routes in July last year, Biman began normalizing salaries in phases from the beginning of this year.
Biman resumed paying full salaries to employees in categories 1-3 from January, and to employees in categories 4 and 5 from February. These categories account for a total of 4,764 employees.
However, 2,800 employees in categories 6-11 are still receiving reduced salaries.
Biman sources claimed the salaries of top-level staff were cut by 25% in May, but the cuts were withdrawn from December.
Why so long to normalize salaries?
On condition of anonymity, several Biman pilots and cabin crew members said they did not understand why it was taking so long to normalize salaries after the partial resumption of domestic flights from July 25 last year.
They also claimed the national flag carrier was not suffering as much as they were making it look like, as they had received assistance and found alternate means of earning during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“Biman kept operating special cargo aircraft throughout the pandemic. Furthermore, the government provided Tk1,000 crore to cover maintenance costs and debt,” one pilot alleged.
Several members of the Bangladesh Airlines Pilots Association (BAPA) told Dhaka Tribune they had repeatedly urged the authorities to check irregularities and corruption, as well as to pay full salaries and benefits to all staff.
“Instead, the authorities forced us to operate flights and do extra work. Some pilots and cabin crew members declined to work in protest, which led to either the cancellation or rescheduling of a number of flights,” said one of the members.
There are 139 pilots and 443 cabin crew members employed at Biman.
In a letter issued on February 4, Biman MD and CEO Mokabbir Hossain explained the grounds for slashing salaries and benefits.
"Following the closure of flights, the revenue of the airline became zero and maintenance costs remained. This has forced the airline to take the decision to cut salaries and reduce other costs," the letter reads.
Mokabbir promised to normalize salaries and benefits once Biman resumed earning adequate revenue, with hopes of earning more through an increased number of flights.
The national flag carrier spent Tk2,502 crore and earned Tk1963 crore from April 2020 to January 2021.
Top 5 officials draw full salaries
The top five officials of Biman who have reportedly been earning full salaries are Managing Director and CEO Md Mokabbir Hossain, Director (Administration, Procurement & Logistic Support) Ziauddin Ahmed, GM (Administration) Md Ashfaqul Amin Mukut, Director (Planning) Air Commodore (Retd) Md Mahbub Jahan Khan and Chief Financial Officer (Additional Charge) Air Commodore Mirza Sarwar Jahan.
The salaries of the officials range from Tk1.5 lakh to Tk3 lakh.
Managing Director & CEO Mokabbir said the 13-member board had made the decision on salary reduction. Being the head of Biman, he himself is a board member.
Chief Financial Officer (Additional Charge) Air Commodore Mirza Sarwar Jahan, whose salary was reportedly increased during the pandemic, and Chairman of the Board Sazzadul Hasan declined to comment on the matter.