Vietnam’s state-owned flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has rolled out a new pay scale for its employees after the airline’s Vietnamese pilots submitted a petition to the government protesting ‘unfair’ wages and poor working conditions.
Last month, 16 Vietnam Airlines pilots, all of whom are Vietnamese nationals, co-signed a petition submitted to Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh accusing the airline of violating labor laws by failing to address poor working conditions and wage differences between Vietnamese and foreign pilots.
According to their letter of protest, Vietnamese pilots working for Vietnam Airlines are paid up to 40 percent less than their foreign colleagues and lower than the average salary for pilots flying for other airlines operating in Vietnam.
A Vietnam Airlines pilot told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that Vietnamese first officers are paid VND96-201 million (US$4,200-8,800) a month, while captains earn a monthly salary of up to VND168-221 million ($7,400-9,700).
To put this in perspective, foreign first officers and captains receive VND181-199 million ($8,000-8,700) and VND262-268 million ($11,500-11,700) in post-tax monthly salary on average, respectively, according to Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper.
In addition, foreign pilots employed by the state-owned airline enjoy two weeks off for every six weeks of work, while Vietnamese pilots are only permitted one week off for every nine weeks on duty, they claimed.
Meanwhile, first officers and captains at privately-owned budget airline Vietjet receive VND120-140 million ($5,300-6,200) and VND180-240 million ($7,900-10,500) a month, respectively.
“We’ve been engaged in talks with the airline for the past three years, but they have not been cooperative [in addressing our demands],” the pilots wrote in their petition.
|A Vietnam Airlines plane is seen in this file photo. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
They also claim that a circular issued by the Ministry of Transport in 2015 has created significant obstacles for pilots to leave their jobs by dictating that “skilled airline employees” give 120 days’ notice before terminating their labor contract.
The circular is in violation of Vietnam’s Constitution and Law on Labor, which state that laborers are only required to give a month’s notice to their employers, the pilots pointed out.
According to Duong Tri Thanh, president and CEO of Vietnam Airlines, a new pay scale for all of the airline’s employees came into effect on June 1, providing raises of up to ten percent for its pilots.
Its highest-paid pilots now receive an average after-tax monthly salary of VND256-297 million ($11,300-13,000), he said.
Between 2015 and May 2018, over 250 Vietnam Airlines pilots quit their jobs, primarily enticed by aggressive recruitment tactics from Chinese airlines, according to the CEO.
Pilots’ wages currently account for nearly half of the airline’s salary budget despite pilots making up only 17 percent of its 6,700 employees, Thanh said.
He also attributed the wage gap between Vietnamese and foreign pilots to the fact that foreign pilots are hired through international suppliers and therefore must be paid in accordance with global standards.