Air India privatisation: Over 11,000 staff of national carrier to get one-year job guarantee; govt says employees' interest to be protected

  • The employee cost of Air India was Rs 3,005 crore or 11.4% of the total revenue receipts in FY19 and the airline has 11,827 workers as of March 2018

  • Hardeep Singh Puri rejected recent reports suggesting that several pilots of Air India are leaving the airline as their salaries were not being paid on time

  • Early this month, Air India chief Ashwani Lohani had told the staff that management was taking necessary steps to protect their interests

Air India said that it would give one-year job protection to its employees amid efforts are underway to privatise the loss-making national carrier, said a media report.

Over 11,000 employees of the debt-laden Air India will be offered employment guarantee for a period of one year as employee issues of state-run companies are of concern to buyers in the wake of high employee costs and low productivity, said a report in Financial Express.

The employee cost of Air India was Rs 3,005 crore or 11.4 percent of the total revenue receipts in FY19 and the state-run airline has as many as 11,827 workers (excluding casual workers) as of March 2018. Of these staff, 37 percent of the permanent employees will retire in the next five years, the report said.

 Air India privatisation: Over 11,000 staff of national carrier to get one-year job guarantee; govt says employees interest to be protected

Representational image. Reuters

"The sale and purchase agreement (SPA) agreement will provide that strategic partner shall not retrench any employees of the company for a period of one year," a source was quoted as saying in the report.

'Interests of employees will be protected'

Meanwhile, the government on Wednesday said interests of employees of the state-owned carrier Air India would be protected and there would be no job loss till its privatisation, reported PTI.

Replying to a supplementary question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri also said that the government would secure a fair deal for all of its employees.

He also rejected recent reports suggesting that several pilots of Air India are leaving the airline as their salaries were not being paid on time.

"Air India pilots are very well looked after and their salaries in relation to what other air carriers are offering are very good," said Puri.

He further said, "In so far, resignations are concerned, I have not heard of any single case where anybody has resigned".

Taking steps to protect interests of employees: Air India CMD

On 8 November this year, Air India chief Ashwani Lohani had told the airline's staff that the management shared their concerns and is taking necessary steps to protect their interests, even as the employees' unions are planning to protest against the government's disinvestment move, reported PTI.

While the government was planning to invite bids for the national carrier in next month, its employee unions had decided to oppose the move, saying there was no clarity regarding salary arrears and pensions.

Lohani, in a communication to the employees, said, "Air India, your very own national carrier, is easily the most well-known Indian brand across the globe. It is incumbent upon all of us together to ensure that the brand retains its sheen even in the present testing times."

He said it is natural that many employees would be concerned about the future in light of the disinvestment scenario as any change in ownership brings about changes in the work culture and environment.

"Kindly be rest assured that the management fully shares your concerns and is taking necessary steps to protect the genuine interests of all Air Indians," said the airline's chairman and managing director.

Last month, reports said that the government was planning to invite preliminary bids for 100 percent stake sale in Air India in November and already some entities expressed interest in the national carrier.

The airline is sitting on a debt pile of around Rs 58,000 crore, besides huge accumulated losses running into thousands of crores.

Govt firm on privatisation 

In August this year, the government had said that it was determined to privatise the debt-laden national carrier.

Puri had said that the government should not be in the business of running an airline. The private sector should run airlines instead, he said.

The minister said the government is fully determined to privatise Air India and is open to 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the aviation sector. The government is determined to get Air India's privatisation process started and to get the best possibel deal ina time-bound manner, the minister had said.

In July, over a dozen unions of Air India had strongly opposed the government's second bid to sell the financially-crippled national carrier.

After the announcement, Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani had called a meeting of all the 13 unions of the airline to discuss the privatisation plan.

"The forum of 13 unions have decided to oppose the privatisation move," a union functionary told PTI over the phone from New Delhi after the meeting with the management.

In January this year, it was reported that the government was eyeing around $1 billion (about Rs 7,000 crore) from the sale of national carrier Air India in the next financial year.

The government will initiate the process of strategic disinvestment of Air India in the second half of 2019-20 and in between it would work towards selling some of its subsidiaries and monetise assets.

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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2019 16:18:27 IST